It appears the campaign by some EU and US officials to try and ensure Russia’s Sputnik V jab stays out of Europe and Western countries isn’t going so well.
Earlier this month it was widely reported that despite European Union leaders’ fierce public criticisms of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine, the reality is that “Behind the scenes, the bloc is turning to Moscow’s Sputnik V shot as it tries to get its stuttering efforts to vaccinate its 450 million people back on track, EU diplomatic and official sources told Reuters.” It was noted at the time that at least four EU states were seeking to make their own independent deals regardless of the unease in Brussels.
And now on Tuesday Reuters reports “Austria is in talks with Russia to buy a million doses of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency,” according to a statement by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office.
It’s predictably unleashed a storm of controversy as the conservative leader is being accused of deliberately and negligently failing to buy the max coronavirus vaccines it was allowed under the European Union’s collective purchasing scheme.
Kurz responded by suggesting Austria’s government would not be beholden to Brussels’ anti-Russia stance which should have no bearing on the science of whether or not Sputnik V is effective. He said:
“There must be no geopolitical blinkers regarding vaccines… The only thing that must count is whether the vaccine is effective and safe.”
Kurz has complained that the EU’s vaccination steering board system for determining how many jabs a country gets is opaque and unreliable, resulting in vaccines distributed “unevenly”.
Back in February, Kurz began being increasingly vocal over not being concerned about the Russian aspect: “It’s about getting a safe vaccine as quickly as possible, never mind who makes it,” he had “controversially” said in an interview with the German weekly Welt am Sonntag.
“Austria would certainly try to make production capacity available at appropriate national firms if the Russian and Chinese manufacturers secure approval and are produced in Europe… just like manufacturers from other countries.” He had explained if available he would personally be ready to receive the Russian vaccine if approved.
US Dep. of Health publicly confirmed that it pressured Brazil against Sputnik V.
We believe countries should work together to save lives. Efforts to undermine the vaccines are unethical and are costing lives.
👇https://t.co/Ga5i4zvbCt P.48 pic.twitter.com/A6wyKOkc8t
— Sputnik V (@sputnikvaccine) March 15, 2021
Slovakia is another country where talks to procure the Sputnik vaccine has unleashed a full-blown political crisis.
As a prime example of this kind of fear-driven motivation fueling the controversy and debate, earlier this month Charles Michel, the Belgian politician who has served as President of the European Council since 2019, reiterated a commonly echoed theme among diplomats and Western officials: “We should not let ourselves be misled by China and Russia, both regimes with less desirable values than ours, as they organize highly limited but widely publicised operations to supply vaccines to others,” he said.
Michel had vowed, “Europe will not use vaccines for propaganda purposes.” It’s this kind of rhetoric that Austria’s Kurz is vowing will not impact his country’s sovereign decision to deal with the vaccine suppliers it wishes.