3 June 202116:45

More criticism of Sputnik V vaccine

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The international success of the anti-coronavirus Sputnik V vaccine, that has been recognised by the scientific community, allows no peace for a number of politically motivated media outlets that continue to politicise the promotion of the Russian vaccine. The worse things get with the vaccines in Europe the more fiercely they lash out at Sputnik V.

On May 11, 2021, Het Parool (the Netherlands) carried yet another article with a provocative headline, paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To go for the Russian vaccine or not to go?” The writer claimed that Russia was pursuing a mercenary line in promoting its vaccine in Europe and beyond.

The string of insinuations that appear in one issue of Het Parool after another are nothing new: choosing the Russian medication is a political choice; if you sympathise with Russia, you are open to Sputnik V; Russia is conducting a hybrid war through Russia Today and Sputnik news agencies, and is smearing its competitors’ products to undermining trust in Western vaccines, European institutions and Western European vaccination strategies. As usual, there are no specific references to these allegedly denigrating actions.

Instead, the authors quote anti-Russia clichés from Lithuanian authorities and a statement by President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who claimed that vaccination rates in Russia were lagging considerably behind European rates. The fact that vaccination centres are open throughout Russia and that mobile Russian medical teams are currently vaccinating people in remote areas, is quietly ignored.

The Dutch journalists explain the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) lack of approval for the Russian vaccine by saying Russia has failed to present additional information and proof of the vaccine’s effectiveness. This is perplexing because The Lancet, a prestigious international medical journal, has published scientific articles on the results of three phases of the vaccine’s clinical trials. Meanwhile, Russia submitted all of the requested information to the EMA in March. In other words, it is delaying the approval of the Russian vaccine based on some vague pretense. We believe this is being done for political reasons. We would like to know if the pharmaceutical giants that received EMA approval submitted this additional information or if it was only required for Sputnik V.

In addition, accusing Russia of politicising its vaccine, the journalists ignore a number of proposals by Russian leaders either for lack of knowledge or deliberately. These proposals suggest forgetting about politics when human health is at stake. Thus, President of Russia Vladimir Putin supported the idea of suspending patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines. It would be good if the authors of the article mentioned this.

In any case, the authors cannot deny the success of the Russian vaccine. They reluctantly admit that over 60 countries have approved it and 28 states are using it in their vaccination programmes. Maybe, it is time for the Het Parool journalists to seriously ponder what was said by former Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic who was strongly criticised for his decision to order the Russian vaccine: “Health and life are the only rules in a pandemic.” Common sense suggests a confident “yes” to the question in the Shakespearean headline.

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