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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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now