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VACCINES

German leaders urge quick EU approval of Russia’s Sputnik V jab

German regional leaders urged the EU Thursday to speed up its review of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and ensure that it could be rolled out efficiently across the bloc once approved.

German leaders urge quick EU approval of Russia's Sputnik V jab
A nurse in Venezuela uses the Sputnik V vaccine in February. Photo: DPA

“It’s important to accelerate approval procedures, especially in the case of Sputnik,” said Bavarian premier Markus Söder at a news conference after Germany’s 16 state leaders held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

He added that European studies of the Russian vaccine had so far shown that it was “highly safe” and “in some cases better than vaccines which have already been approved”.

“We need to approve it quickly and efficiently, not get bogged down in the classic, bureaucratic details,” he said.

Berlin mayor Michael Müller also noted that “we need every vaccine we can get”. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) launched a rolling review of Sputnik V earlier this month, though several EU countries have already begun distributing it.

READ ALSO: German vaccine boss praises Russian vaccine as ‘clever’

If approved Sputnik would become the first non-Western coronavirus jab to be certified for use across the 27-nation bloc.

On Thursday, Bavarian premier Söder claimed that approval was now “only a matter of time”, and that it was more important that the EU struck deals to secure production and supply.

“Europe needs to negotiate quickly and not wait until the approval is there. This is an urgent appeal not to miss another chance,” he said.

“If it’s the case that production is difficult with Sputnik, then there could be an offer to produce it here in Germany,” he added.

Sputnik V’s developers claimed Monday that they had production deals with companies in Italy, France, Spain and Germany, yet it remains unclear how concrete these agreements are.

The French and Spanish governments both told AFP they were not aware of any formal contracts, while German pharmaceutical company IDT Biologika said it was “still in talks” with Russia over vaccine production.

Both Söder and Müller called for an expansion of European production capacities and ensure that EU-produced doses remained in the EU to invigorate the bloc’s sluggish inoculation campaign.

“We need more European sovereignty. Europe’s reliance on other producers is one of the weaknesses of our entire vaccine architecture,” said Söder.

Three German state premieres speak out in favour

After the temporary halt of AstraZeneca jabs on Monday, more German state leaders are promoting the Russian vaccine Sputnik V in order to more quickly vaccinate the population. 

READ ALSO: Germany suspends AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot concerns

“The (Sputnik V) vaccine should be approved. Russia is a great country of science, and I have not the slightest doubt that the science there is capable of producing a powerful vaccine,” Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer (CDU) told the newspapers of the Funke-Mediengruppe on Thursday. 

Like Kretschmer, Saxony-Anhalt’s state premier Reiner Haseloff (CDU) pointed out that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would first have to decide on the approval.

“Basically, however, the following applies: in the fight against coronavirus, we welcome any vaccine that is safe and effective and thus helps us to overcome the pandemic,” he told the Funke-Zeitung. 

“When it comes to people’s health, origin should not play a role.”

Thuringia’s state premier Bodo Ramelow (Left Party) told the Funke-Blättern: “For a long time, I’ve been wishing for much more pressure from the federal government to get more alternative vaccines approved.”

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

READ ALSO: 

Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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