The European Union on Thursday promised to speed up the approval process for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, just days after Austria and Russia began negotiations to unilaterally import the vaccine into the Alpine state.
— EU Medicines Agency (@EMA_News) March 4, 2021
But if the vaccine is approved – either by the EU or unilaterally by Austria – when would it be available? And would it help supply?
What is going on between Austria and Russia?
According to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz agreed in a phone call Friday to talks over the delivery and joint production of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.
“The issues of countering the spread of the coronavirus infection were discussed in detail, including the possibility of supplying the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to Austria, as well as establishing its joint production,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
The phone call, which the Kremlin said was initiated by Austria, came as the European Union faces criticism for a sluggish mass vaccination rollout after it was plagued by supply problems.
Where would the vaccines be made?
Part of the negotiations includes the possibility of manufacturing the vaccine in Austria.
“Austria would definitely try to make production capacities available to suitable domestic companies for Russian or Chinese vaccines,” Kurz told “Welt am Sonntag” at the time.
Can Austria import the vaccine without EU approval?
Yes. Hungary has already started using the Russian vaccine, with several other European Union states indicating they may do the same.
Would people agree to take the Sputnik vaccine?
Whether or not the general public would take the vaccine remains to be seen. However, a poll completed showed Austrians viewed the vaccine more positively than that from AstraZeneca.
Support for Sputnik V in Austria is double that of AstraZeneca, according to a poll carried out this week, Austria’s Kurier newspaper reports
On Thursday, Vienna indicated will start vaccinating over 65s with the AstraZeneca vaccine, in contravention of the recommendation of the Austrian government that the vaccine not be used for seniors.
When could it become available?
Determining the duration of the approval process is difficult at this stage, particularly at a European level.
While the EU has promised to supercharge the process, no likely date has been given.
However, with Hungary having approved the vaccine three weeks ago, if Austria were to unilaterally approve the vaccine, the process would be much faster.
The expectation is that vaccines produced in Russia would be imported to be administered when the vaccine is approved, with those produced in Austria set to cover medium and longer-term needs.