BRUSSELS. – Publicly, the European Union has dismissed Russia’s global coronavirus vaccine supply campaign as a propaganda stunt by an undesirable regime.
Behind the scenes, the bloc is turning to Moscow’s Sputnik V shot as it tries to get its stuttering efforts to vaccinate its 450 million people back on track, EU diplomatic and official sources told Reuters.
An EU official who negotiates with vaccine makers on behalf of the bloc told Reuters that EU governments were considering launching talks with Sputnik V developers and it would take requests from four EU states to start the process.
Hungary and Slovakia have already bought the Russian shot, the Czech Republic is interested, and the EU official said Italy was considering using the country’s biggest vaccine-producing bioreactor at a ReiThera plant near Rome to make Sputnik V.
Brussels has been criticized for the bloc’s slow vaccine roll-out at a time when former member Britain is easing restrictions as its inoculation program gathers pace. Italy is intensifying lockdowns, hospitals in the Paris region are close to being overloaded and Germany has warned of a third wave.
The EU has signed deals with six Western vaccine makers and launched talks with two more. It has approved four vaccines so far but production glitches have slowed its inoculation campaign and some member states are seeking their own solutions.
If Sputnik V were to join the EU’s vaccine arsenal, it would be a diplomatic triumph for Russia, whose trade with the bloc has been hamstrung for years by sanctions over its annexation of Crimea and its intervention in eastern Ukraine.
It would also risk dividing the bloc between those states dead set against giving Moscow any kind of win and those in favor of showing that Brussels can cooperate with the Kremlin. – Reuters