Germany and France look to Russia for Covid-19 vaccines

Vladimir Putin in talks with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel over supplies

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Germany and France turned to Vladimir Putin to supply Russia's Covid-19 vaccine to the EU to get the bloc's struggling inoculation campaign back on track.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday night held a video call with the Russian president to discuss "co-operation" over vaccines that could lead to the Sputnik V shot being used on the continent.

The Kremlin said the leaders discussed Russia’s vaccine and “the possibility of its shipments and joint production in EU nations”.

Europe's medicines regulator began the process of approving the shot this month after announcing a review of clinical data.

Paris and Berlin's talks with Moscow came as Germany limited the use of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine in people aged under 60 because of a risk of rare blood clots.

Many European countries suspended the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine while investigating blood-clotting incidents reported this month.

Nearly all have since resumed but, breaking with guidance from the European medical regulator, France is offering the drug only to people aged 55 or older.

The UK government was again forced to defend the AstraZeneca shot as safe and effective after the German decision on Tuesday night.

In Britain, more than 30 million people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The country on Tuesday recorded 4,040 new cases and 56 deaths, with lockdown starting to ease. In Germany, there were 9,549 new cases and 180 deaths, as a third wave sweeps the continent.

Europe's decision to turn to Russia for Covid-19 vaccines could undermine global pressure on Russia after the country's involvement in several international incidents, such as the Novichok poisonings in Salisbury and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.

Russia is actively marketing Sputnik V abroad despite a slow pace of its vaccination campaign at home, in what some in the EU say is an attempt to score geopolitical points.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last week criticised Russia for using its vaccine as a propaganda tool.

“In terms of how it is managed, it [the Sputnik V vaccine] is more a means of propaganda and aggressive diplomacy than a means of solidarity and health aid,” he said.

A medical worker fills a syringe from a vial of the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine as a first dose is seen on the first plan, during a vaccination campain at the State Hospital in Cailungo, San Marino, on March 29, 2021. San Marino, a 34,000 citizens tiny independent republic, northern Italy, said on February 19, 2021 it would use the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. / AFP / Andreas SOLARO
A health worker fills a syringe from a vial of the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in San Marino. AFP

Ms Merkel said last week Germany would be open to using Sputnik’s vaccine if approved by the regulator.