A new coronavirus vaccine factory will start rolling out tens of thousands of vials for use in immunization programs across Europe, Serbia’s president has announced, unveiling a deal backed by Russia, China and the UAE.
President Aleksandr Vucic told reporters on Thursday that domestic production of the jabs would begin as early as May, with the Moscow-made Sputnik V formula set to be the first one manufactured.
“It will be an entirely… new vaccine factory which we will build together with the UAE,” the Serbian leader said after a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, whose country is covering the construction costs. China will also be actively involved in the project.
“We will have large quantities of vaccine for us, but also for the entire region,” Vucic added.
On the same day, Nenad Popovic, Serbia’s Minister for Innovation, said that “the first phase… would include the transport of (vaccine) ingredients from Russia, packing and distribution.”
Serbia has confirmed more than 500,000 cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began last year, with almost 5,000 deaths attributed to the virus. It has, however, been among the most successful nations in securing supplies of jabs, including using Sputnik V as part of a nationwide public health drive.
Despite having seen it approved for use in 46 countries across the world, the makers of the Russian vaccine are awaiting a rolling review by the European Medicines Agency to determine whether it can be administered by EU member states.
Many have already complained to Brussels over the slow start of the centralized procurement strategy and the slow pace of previous approvals by the central regulator.
Earlier this week, its developers demanded an apology from the health body’s chairperson, Christa Wirthumer-Hoche, after she described decisions by Slovakia and Hungary to import the Sputnik V jab as “Russian roulette.” The team behind the formula said the comments “raise serious questions about possible political interference” in the appraisals process.
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