WORLD / CROSS-BORDERS
Italian lab to make Russian jab
EU to approve J&J vaccine as rollouts accelerate
Published: Mar 10, 2021 06:28 PM
A healthcare worker prepares to give injection of Sputnik V vaccine at a local hospital in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on Feb. 1, 2021. Kazakhstan began its coronavirus vaccination campaign Monday using Russian-made Sputnik V. According to the ministry, the vaccination, carried out on a voluntary and free basis, will continue until the end of 2021 and will cover up to 6 million people. (Photo by Kalizhan Ospanov/Xinhua)

A healthcare worker prepares to give injection of Sputnik V vaccine at a local hospital in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on Feb. 1, 2021. Kazakhstan began its coronavirus vaccination campaign Monday using Russian-made Sputnik V. According to the ministry, the vaccination, carried out on a voluntary and free basis, will continue until the end of 2021 and will cover up to 6 million people. (Photo by Kalizhan Ospanov/Xinhua)

Russia sealed its first deal on Tuesday to manufacture the Sputnik V jab in the European Union (EU), as Europe is still struggling to step up its rollout, even if officials promise 100 million shots will enter the EU each month from April to June.

The EU's industry commissioner Thierry Breton said Tuesday that the bloc's vaccine strategy should this week be augmented with the addition of Johnson & Johnson's single-shot jab. 

With approval expected "within the next, hopefully, days or hours," he said, that would bring the number of vaccines in use across the 27 member states to four, on top of ones from BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.  

The EU was given an additional boost, with an announcement that 10 million doses of the Sputnik V jab would be produced in Italy in the second half of 2021.

While Russia's provision of the shots around the world, including to some smaller EU countries, has been a coup for Moscow's image, European Council president Charles Michel accused Moscow "propaganda." 

Nevertheless, Sputnik V's makers demanded an apology from the EU's medicines regulator after a senior official warned member states against hastily authorizing the jab, comparing emergency rollouts to "Russian roulette." 

The US, the worst-hit country in the world, is also accelerating its vaccine rollout, with the states of New York and Florida preparing to make COVID-19 vaccines available to people aged 60 and over. 

Much of the world is still struggling to break the grip of a pandemic that has killed more than 2.6 million people in a little over a year.

More than 700,000 people have now lost their lives in Latin America and the Caribbean, with Brazil and Mexico accounting for the lion's share of deaths.

In France, intensive care units at hospitals in the Paris region are nearly saturated with COVID-19 patients, health authorities warned, and doctors are now putting off non-urgent operations in order to free up more beds. 

But there has been some progress in Africa, where Sudan became the latest country to begin inoculating health workers using shots received through the Covax initiative.

Tunisia also received its first major delivery of coronavirus vaccine doses Tuesday, almost a month later than expected. 

AFP
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