14:27 GMT16 April 2021
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    GENOA (Sputnik), Anastasia Levchenko, Issues around the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, are highly politicised in the EU, but an emergency approval for its use in a big country like Italy could shift the rhetoric and spur other nations to follow suit, Vincenzo Trani, the president of the Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce (CCIR), told Sputnik.

    "I think it might be a taboo, authorising the Russian vaccine, as for some it could mean bringing down the wall of rhetoric against Russia, and I am sure that if a big country like Italy were to approve the use of the Russian vaccine, many other countries would follow it. Now is the time to save lives, we can leave geopolitics to other political salons or forums", Trani said in an interview.

    In early March, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) started a rolling review of the Sputnik V vaccine. Prior to that, two EU countries, Hungary and Slovakia, approved Sputnik V without waiting for authorisation from the EMA. On Monday, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Rik Daems said at a meeting with Russian lower house speaker Vyacheslav Volodin that the EU was considering member states’ requests for buying Sputnik V. The European Commission said on the same day that there were no talks on a centralised purchase of the Russian vaccine.

    At the moment, the EMA has authorised four COVID-19 vaccines — the ones by AstraZeneca/Oxford, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson. The bloc is now at 6.4 percent of its population vaccinated with at least one dose, which is much lower compared to some other regions.

    "I think it is clear to everyone that initially it was not in Russia's plans to supply the Sputnik V vaccine to Europe, as three international companies had already, on paper, guaranteed coverage of the entire needs of the old continent. Just recently, after experiencing severe delays in deliveries, has the Sputnik V theme returned to the fore for Europe, especially after multiple studies that confirmed its scientific value", Trani said.

    Since January, the EU has been facing delays in the deliveries of vaccines as producers fail to meet the growing demand. Earlier in March, Europe blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to Australia, invoking the new regulation that allows exports to be stopped if a vaccine manufacturer does not meet its obligations to the bloc. In these circumstances, Trani believes, the EU should weigh all vaccines available for use, based on their efficacy rather than politicking.

    "I think extra effort is needed to provide vaccines to everyone and fast ... As an entrepreneur I see that there are currently various vaccines available. I would not look too much at the state of production or development of vaccines, but I would rather consider their effectiveness, regardless of country or nationality", he said, adding that "political views towards Russia have influenced the [EU] choice of which vaccine to use."

    Many "advanced" countries have already approved the Russian vaccine, and Italy should follow suit, Trani continued.

    "I think that Italy or Europe should do like the United Arab Emirates did, where all vaccines are available: from Chinese to Russian, along with the British or American ones", he added.

    The CCIR president stressed that it is high time politics was put aside and Europe took action toward reopening borders by the summer, as further lockdowns or total closures are no longer affordable.

    The EU immunisation campaign, meanwhile, is facing another blow as a cascading number of countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway, suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of dangerous blood clots and even deaths after getting the shots from a particular batch of shots.

    The UK-Swedish drugmaker says that it had found no evidence of increased risk of blood clots from its COVID-19 vaccine after a review of safety data of over 17 million inoculated people across the EU and the United Kingdom. The EMA is expected to unveil its findings on Thursday.

    Italy Will Produce Sputnik V for Nations Already Using Russian Vaccine

    Italy will produce the Russian Sputnik V vaccine for countries that have already authorised its use, but will be ready to manufacture doses for internal consumption once the shot is greenlighted on its soil, Trani told Sputnik.

    On Monday, the Russian Direct Investment Fund announced that it had struck agreements with companies from Italy, Spain, France and Germany to start joint production of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. In the case of Italy, a deal was made with Swiss-headquartered pharma company Adienne Pharma & Biotech, which has a facility in Bergamo. The Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce facilitated the agreement.

    "The agreement is for the production, not for the distribution of the vaccine in Italy. ADIENNE will produce the vaccine for Russia but currently the doses, when they are produced, will be for the countries that have already approved the use of Sputnik V", Trani said.

    The Adienne plant will become operational in July and plans to manufacture 10 million doses by the end of the year, with hopes of reaching full-scale production in 2022.

    "If before that date EMA authorises the use of the Sputnik V vaccine in Europe and there are all the authorisations for its use in Italy as well, it will certainly be a great satisfaction to be able to produce the vaccine in Italy. However, until the EMA authorises the vaccine, this remains a commercial production agreement. If it is not authorised in Europe, there are over 49 countries where Sputnik V is authorised", Trani noted.

    According to the CCIR chief, the deal for Sputnik V production is also an opportunity for Italy’s pharma industry.

    "Sputnik V has proven its efficacy and received numerous positive evaluations from the international scientific community. The production and distribution model of the Russian anti-Covid vaccine is different from other medications. In fact, it follows the logic of local production, and in this type of production we saw an opportunity for Italian companies that are also at the forefront in the pharmaceutical sector", Trani said.

    He did not rule out that the Italian-Russian collaboration would expand to the other two Russian COVID-19 vaccines — those developed by Siberian research center Vector and the Moscow-based Chumakov research institute.

    "I am sure that the production of the vaccine in Italy will bring to light other possible and interesting collaborations in the pharmaceutical sector where Italy has a front-rank industry. Combined doses or any other collaboration are also welcome, joining forces and sharing knowledge and skills is and will always be the recipe of success", Trani said.

    The CCIR’s role is to bring together businesses and opportunities from both markets.

    "If there are new opportunities on the issue of vaccination, we will take steps to bring it to the attention of the Italian and Russian companies associated with us", Trani added.

    With the European Medicines Agency still reviewing Sputnik V, two EU nations — Hungary and Slovakia — have already approved the Russian vaccine via national emergency procedures.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccine, Russia, Italy, EU
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