PARIS (REUTERS, AFP) - The European Union does not need Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for Covid-19 and can achieve immunity across the continent by using available European production, a leading EU executive said on Sunday (March 21) in comments that provoked a backlash from the vaccine maker.
The European Commission has been criticised for a slow vaccine rollout when the bloc faces a rise in cases and as former member Britain's inoculation programme gathers pace.
"We have absolutely no need of Sputnik V," Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, who heads the EU executive’s vaccine task force, told TF1 television.
"Today, we clearly have the capacity to deliver 300 to 350 million doses by the end of June and therefore by July 14 ... we have the possibility of reaching continent-wide immunity," he said.
July 14, or Bastille day, is France's national day.
Mr Breton repeated a previous comment that the EU should help Russia with production of the vaccine if needed but priority should be given to the Europeans, he said.
"Doses are there, now people must accept vaccination and that we have the logistics," he said.
In a series of Twitter posts, the Sputnik V vaccine maker accused Mr Breton of being "clearly biased" against the jab because it was Russian.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which has backed the development of Sputnik V, wrote: "Dear Commissioner Breton, please stop being biased. Europeans want a choice of safe and efficient vaccines, which you so far failed to provide."
It added that Sputnik V has been approved for use in 54 countries.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) launched a rolling review of the Sputnik V vaccine earlier this month, a key step towards it being approved as the first non-Western coronavirus jab to be used across the 27-nation bloc.
RDIF said that if Mr Breton’s remarks were “an official position of the EU, please inform us that there is no reason to pursue EMA approval because of your political biases. We will continue to save lives in other countries," it added.
Russia registered Sputnik V last August ahead of large-scale clinical trials, sparking concern among some experts over the fast-track process.
Leading medical journal The Lancet has published results showing the jab to be safe and over 90 per cent effective.