According to Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive of the Russian sovereign wealth fund, Europe should be open to the inclusion and use of Russia’s Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine amid what he called the “Pfizer monopoly” across the region.
RDIF’s Dmitriev, who helped develop Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, told CNBC that the vaccine could be useful in Europe, where Covid immunization programs are slow.
“It is very important that Europe is open to different vaccines because it is not good to have a Pfizer monopoly in Europe,” Dmitriev told CNBC’s Street Signs Europe on Monday.
“It is good to have AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and other vaccines so that prices are reasonable and that Europe is not subject to a vaccination monopoly that may be being created.”
Coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, as well as the vaccine from Pfizer and German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, are currently the dominant vaccines in Europe. However, the former was investigated by the European Medicines Agency because of concerns that it could be linked to a small number of rare but serious bleeding episodes in people who have been vaccinated.
Similar concerns have impacted the Johnson & Johnson shot (soon to be launched in the EU). However, after research, the EMA has classified the benefits of both shots as predominating for the risks.
There are now individual reports of Europeans rejecting the AstraZeneca shot, which is cheaper to produce and buy, and asking for the Pfizer BioNTech shot instead. CNBC asked Pfizer to respond to Dmitriev’s comments.
Meanwhile, a dispute has formed in the EU over the possible use of Russia’s Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine, which initially had doubts about its clinical data and safety standards and has more recently been viewed as a geopolitical tool by Russia on the vaccine sold to various countries around the world, mainly to its allies.
An interim analysis of the Phase 3 clinical trials with 20 participants published in The Lancet in early February found it to be 91.6% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 infections. The EMA is currently evaluating the clinical data prior to a possible approval of the shot, which would pave the way for the vaccine to be used in the EU.
Several Eastern European countries, including Hungary, have expressed an interest in the vaccine or have already purchased and used doses of the vaccine, even though it has not yet been approved by the EMA.
Such purchases were not without controversy: for example, the Slovak Medicines Agency claimed in early April that the doses of Sputnik V received did not match those examined by international experts. Russia then asked Slovakia to return hundreds of thousands of cans, citing breaches of contract, Reuters reported.
The RDIF CEO said negotiations for the supply of vaccines with Germany “and several other countries” had taken place, although he did not name them. However, France is also known to have held talks with Russia about possible purchases of the vaccine.
Dmitriev said he hopes the EMA will have completed its assessment of the shot by June. “We are very confident that we can deliver 50 million doses of the vaccine to Europe from June to September.”