Slovakia Claims a Bait-and-Switch With the Russian Vaccines it Ordered

The European Union’s regulator, the European Medicines Agency, has so far declined to approve the Russian vaccine for use and only two members of the bloc, Hungary and Slovakia, have placed orders for Sputnik V. Serbia, which is not a member of the bloc, has also ordered Sputnik V and begun using it in a mass inoculation program that has been far more successful than the stumbling efforts of most European Union states.

Even Germany, a stickler for procedure, has expressed growing interest in Sputnik V. Health Minister Jens Spahn told the public broadcaster WDR on Thursday that he would like to start bilateral talks with Russia over a potential purchase of the vaccine, which would go through only if it is approved by the European Medicines Agency.

The previous day, Markus Söder, the governor of Bavaria, said his government had signed a preliminary agreement to buy 2.5 million doses of the vaccine, which are to be produced at a Russian-owned plant in the southern state. That deal, too, is contingent on E.M.A. approval.

Sputnik V is manufactured at seven locations in Russia, and also at plants in India and South Korea. A number of other countries have signed manufacturing contracts, including Brazil, Turkey and Serbia. Russia has consistently delivered fewer doses of the vaccine than initially promised, suggesting glitches in manufacturing. Producing vaccines at scale is a difficult process and ramping up production has presented problems for Western vaccines, too.

Noting that about 40 countries are using or scheduled to use the Russian vaccine, the Slovak regulatory agency asserted that “these vaccines are only associated by the name.” That raised questions about deviations from the formula reviewed in The Lancet.

“The comparability and consistency of different batches produced at different locations has not been demonstrated,” the Slovak regulator said. “In several cases, they appear to be vaccines with different properties (lyophilisate versus solution, single-dose ampoules versus multi-dose vials, different storage conditions, composition and method of manufacture).”

The Slovak statement could damage Russia’s efforts to establish Sputnik V as a reliable brand. It could also exacerbate lingering doubts left by the vaccine’s highly politicized rollout in Russia, where President Vladimir V. Putin announced that the drug was ready for use in August, before clinical trials had finished.

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Russia Trumpets Coronavirus Vaccine Exports, While Quietly Importing Doses

MOSCOW — Russia has lauded with much fanfare the arrival of its homegrown vaccine, Sputnik V, in Latin America and Africa, and even in some countries in Europe, calling it a solution to shortages around the world.

It has been less vocal, though, about one country that is also importing the vaccine: Russia.

The Russian government has contracted out the manufacture of Sputnik V to a South Korean company that has already sent the vaccine to Russia, and plans to do the same with a company from India.

While the scale of the imports are impossible to gauge because of nondisclosure agreements, they undermine some of the narrative Russia has proudly presented about its role in the pandemic as an exporter of vaccines to needy countries.

The imports, which are expected to ramp up in coming weeks and months, could help Russia overcome a dismally slow vaccination rollout at home. They also illustrate that even countries whose scientists designed successful shots rely on cross border trade for vaccine supplies.

said last fall that overseas manufacturing could partly meet demand at home, but have since gone quiet about importing a product that has been held up as a triumph of the country’s scientists. Manufacturing the vaccine in Russia, however, has been a different story.

Russia received two cargo planes loaded with Sputnik V from the South Korean manufacturer, GL Rapha, in December and the company expects to send another shipment in coming days. Indian vaccine makers are also expected to export the Russian-designed vaccine to Russia, according to Indian diplomats.

“We face the prospect of increasing this cooperation in the field of vaccines,” India’s ambassador to Russia, Shri Varma, said at a news conference in January. “We envisage a major rolling out of Sputnik vaccine in India, using the Indian production capacities for India, for Russia and for the entire world.”

Russia has four production deals in India. One Indian company, Virchow Biotech in Hyderabad, India, last week signed a manufacturing deal with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to make 200 million doses a year of Sputnik V.

struggled for months last fall to obtain biotechnology equipment that is made in China, and was in short supply.

said that enough Sputnik V to fully inoculate 8.9 million people had been distributed in Russia since regulators approved the drug last August. Russia’s minister of industry said Monday he expected a quick ramp-up by April to twice that amount every month.

Russia’s vaccination campaign has fallen far behind that of most European nations and the United States. Russia has vaccinated 4.4 percent of its population, compared to 10 percent in the European Union and 26 percent in the United States.

The Kremlin this past week for the first time acknowledged that scarcity of the vaccine played a role in Mr. Putin’s decision to delay his own inoculation to avoid stimulating demand for shots before they became widely available outside the capital.

In January, when Mr. Putin became eligible for a shot under Russian rules based on his age, “production was not yet sufficient to fully meet demand in the regions,” said his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

It’s not clear how large a role the imports will play in alleviating scarcity, accelerating vaccinations and saving lives in Russia. But it positions Russia lower in the pecking order of vaccine geopolitics, as an importer rather than just an exporter.

Russian officials have chosen to highlight exports, however. “A vaccine for all humankind,” the Sputnik V website declares. State media has lavished attention on even relatively small shipments of tens or hundreds of thousands of doses to foreign countries.

held back from export nearly all of the 2.4 million doses manufactured by a private company, the Serum Institute of India, as the number of infections from the coronavirus shot up across the country. The European Union also moved on emergency legislation to curb vaccine exports, a change that could limit British imports of the AstraZeneca vaccine designed at Oxford University from producers in the bloc.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was the “the end of naïveté” for the European Union, which has significant production capacity but had been exporting doses despite rapidly rising cases within the bloc.

The United States and Britain have both imported domestically designed vaccines made in foreign countries. The United States has done so while prohibiting some exports of U.S.-made doses abroad.

Russia imported the South Korean-produced Sputnik V in December as it expanded the categories of people eligible for vaccination. The doses arrived in two Asiana Airlines cargo planes, according to an announcement by the airline, which was touting its cold shipment service.

In written answers to questions, GL Rapha, the Korean manufacturer, said it could not discuss shipments because of the nondisclosure agreement.

The company said it expects to produce 150 million doses of Sputnik V this year. The Russian Direct Investment Fund did not respond to questions about imports to Russia.

Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

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Russia Trumpets Vaccine Exports, While Quietly Importing Doses

MOSCOW — Russia has lauded with much fanfare the arrival of its homegrown vaccine, Sputnik V, in Latin America and Africa, and even in some countries in Europe, calling it a solution to shortages around the world.

It has been less vocal, though, about one country that is also importing the vaccine: Russia.

The Russian government has contracted out the manufacture of Sputnik V from a South Korean company that has already sent the vaccine to Russia, and plans to do the same with a company from India.

While the scale of the imports are impossible to gauge because of nondisclosure agreements, they undermine some of the narrative Russia has proudly presented about its role in the pandemic as an exporter of vaccines to needy countries.

The imports, which are expected to ramp up in coming weeks and months, could help Russia overcome a dismally slow vaccination rollout at home. They also illustrate that even countries whose scientists designed successful shots rely on cross border trade for vaccine supplies.

said last fall that overseas manufacturing could partly meet demand at home, but have since gone quiet about importing a product that has been held up as a triumph of the country’s scientists. Manufacturing the vaccine in Russia, however, has been a different story.

Russia received two cargo planes loaded with Sputnik V from the South Korean manufacturer, GL Rapha, in December and the company expects to send another shipment in coming days. Indian vaccine makers are also expected to export the Russian-designed vaccine to Russia, according to Indian diplomats.

“We face the prospect of increasing this cooperation in the field of vaccines,” India’s ambassador to Russia, Shri Varma, said at a news conference in January. “We envisage a major rolling out of Sputnik vaccine in India, using the Indian production capacities for India, for Russia and for the entire world.”

Russia has four production deals in India. One Indian company, Virchow Biotech in Hyderabad, India, last week signed a manufacturing deal with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to make 200 million doses a year of Sputnik V.

struggled for months last fall to obtain biotechnology equipment that is made in China, and was in short supply.

said that enough Sputnik V to fully inoculate 8.9 million people had been distributed in Russia since regulators approved the drug last August. Russia’s minister of industry said Monday he expected a quick ramp-up by April to twice that amount every month.

Russia’s vaccination campaign has fallen far behind that of most European nations and the United States. Russia has vaccinated 4.4 percent of its population, compared to 10 percent in the European Union and 26 percent in the United States.

The Kremlin this past week for the first time acknowledged that scarcity of the vaccine played a role in Mr. Putin’s decision to delay his own inoculation to avoid stimulating demand for shots before they became widely available outside the capital.

In January, when Mr. Putin became eligible for a shot under Russian rules based on his age, “production was not yet sufficient to fully meet demand in the regions,” said his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

It’s not clear how large a role the imports will play in alleviating scarcity, accelerating vaccinations and saving lives in Russia. But it positions Russia lower in the pecking order of vaccine geopolitics, as an importer rather than just an exporter.

Russian officials have chosen to highlight exports, however. “A vaccine for all humankind,” the Sputnik V website declares. State media has lavished attention on even relatively small shipments of tens or hundreds of thousands of doses to foreign countries.

held back from export nearly all of the 2.4 million doses manufactured by a private company, the Serum Institute of India, as the number of infections from the coronavirus shot up across the country. The European Union also moved on emergency legislation to curb vaccine exports, a change that could limit British imports of the AstraZeneca vaccine designed at Oxford University from producers in the bloc.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was the “the end of naïveté” for the European Union, which has significant production capacity but had been exporting doses despite rapidly rising cases within the bloc.

The United States and Britain have both imported domestically designed vaccines made in foreign countries. The United States has done so while prohibiting some exports of U.S.-made doses abroad.

Russia imported the South Korean-produced Sputnik V in December as it expanded the categories of people eligible for vaccination. The doses arrived in two Asiana Airlines cargo planes, according to an announcement by the airline, which was touting its cold shipment service.

In written answers to questions, GL Rapha, the Korean manufacturer, said it could not discuss shipments because of the nondisclosure agreement.

The company said it expects to produce 150 million doses of Sputnik V this year. The Russian Direct Investment Fund did not respond to questions about imports to Russia.

Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

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