The head of the World Health Organization’s European office has revealed his belief that the continent “really needs” Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, with the EU struggling from a shortage of doses of currently approved jabs.
The Moscow-made breakthrough formula is in civilian circulation in Russia, Serbia and Belarus but is yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), despite a couple of EU countries also already using it to inoculate their citizens. As things stand, the EMA has registered the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Janssen vaccines.
Speaking to TASS news agency, The WHO’s Hans Kluge, himself a native of Belgium, expressed hope that Sputnik V might help the bloc solve its vaccine shortage crisis, explaining that he doesn’t understand the “hesitation” and “skepticism” towards Russia’s attempts to solve the Covid-19 problem.
“I hope that in the near future – very near – the vaccine will be used in the region,” Kluge said. “And we really need it. The EU and other countries are struggling with a shortage of vaccines. I believe in it. We need it.”
“Russia has a long history of producing, developing, and mastering vaccines, and I believe [in them].”
The organization is conducting a sequential review of clinical trial data and has passed information on to the EMA. According to Kluge, the WHO and EMA have made an agreement with the Russian Ministry of Health and will visit the Gamaleya Center, where the Sputnik vaccine was developed.
“This is a transparent process. All the information is on the WHO website,” he explained.
Earlier this week, the European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said that the EU has “absolutely no need” for Sputnik V, believing that the four already registered as good enough to achieve collective immunity. In addition, Breton said that Russia is having problems producing the formula.
In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow isn’t “imposing anything on anyone,” and also accused the EU of protecting the “interests of certain pharmaceutical companies” rather than its citizens.
As well as throwing his support behind Sputnik V, Kluge also praised Russia’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, noting a “comprehensive approach” to battle the virus “on the part of both the government and society.”
“This is what we urge other countries to do,” the WHO official said. “Russia has set the highest bar for the coordination of measures – at all levels: political, technical, epidemiological, social, etc.”
In particular, he praised Moscow’s ability to quickly increase mass testing, and the rapid growth in the number of hospital beds, also noting that he was impressed with the usage of “high technology at the primary level of healthcare.”
“But, I would also like to say: of course not everything is perfect, of course not,” he said.
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