Von der Leyen attacked over ‘deplorable’ remark as new vaccine feud erupts with Russia

Russian foreign minister issues warning to EU

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Moscow’s embassy in Brussels said the European Commission President’s remarks about the Sputnik V jab’s safety and efficacy was an attempt to “politicise” the pandemic. Mrs von der Leyen used a recent press appearance to discredit the Russian state-backed vaccine. Despite a number of EU countries lining up to buy doses of the jab, the German rubbished claims its manufacturer had applied for regulatory approval from the bloc’s medicines regulator.

She added: “I must say we still wonder why Russia is offering theoretically millions and millions of doses while not sufficiently progressing in vaccinating their own people.”

Hungary, Croatia and Slovakia are all said to be in talks with Moscow about securing doses of the Sputnik V jab ahead of any decision by the European Medicines Agency.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund has said it has applied to the EMA for market authorisation, a claim denied by the Amsterdam-based EU drugs watchdog.

Russia’s EU embassy announced it was “perplexed to hear” Mrs von der Leyen’s criticism of its country’s authorities and scientific community.

A statement on Thursday added: “In full compliance with the principles of democracy and humanitarian law, inoculation in Russia is voluntary, and to date, all interested citizens are provided with the vaccine without delay and free of charge.

“An extensive network of vaccination centres has been set up and is constantly being improved, including employing modern digitalisation tools.”

European officials have cast doubt on the effectiveness and safety of the Russian-made vaccine.

Mrs von der Leyen insisted EU inspectors would have to be granted access to Moscow’s manufacturers’ plants and all the scientific data before making a decision to approve the jab’s use across the bloc.

The Russian embassy said: “Our country is ready to provide any state with full information on the invention of Russian scientists, as well as trial batches of Sputnik V, so that interested partners could conduct a full and independent analysis both of its pharmacological characteristics and of other economic and logistical factors.”

“We presume that production and distribution of vaccines should be beyond politics,” it added.

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“So we hope that the EU will evaluate the Russian vaccine on the basis of scientific and humanitarian, rather than political considerations.”

A recent study published by the Lancet medical journal found the Sputnik V jab to be safe and more than 91 percent effective.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for the EU to distribute a chunk of its vaccine supplies to developing countries to stop Moscow securing a diplomatic stranglehold over them.

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In an interview with the FT, he said: “We are allowing the idea to take hold that hundreds of millions of vaccines are being given in rich countries and that we are not starting in poor countries.

“It’s an unprecedented acceleration of global inequality and it’s politically unsustainable because it’s paving the way for a war of influence over vaccines.

“You can see the Chinese strategy, and the Russian strategy too.”

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