Russia to make Sputnik V vaccine in Italy, a first in EU

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Imam Khomeini Airport City

FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2021, file photo released by Imam Khomeini Airport City, Russian-made Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines are unloaded at the Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport. Russias boast in August that it was the first country to authorize a coronavirus vaccine led to skepticism because of its insufficient testing on only a few dozen people. Now, with demand growing for the Sputnik V, experts are raising questions again, this time over whether Moscow can keep up with all the orders from countries that want it. (Saeed Kaari/IKAC via AP, File)

MILAN – Russia has signed a deal to produce its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Italy, the first contract in the European Union, the Italian Russian Chamber of Commerce announced Tuesday.

The deal was signed with Adienne Srl, the Italian subsidiary of a Swiss-based pharmaceutical company, and Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. Production of a planned 10 million doses this year is set to launch in July.

“The innovative production process will help create new jobs and allow Italy to control the entire production of the compound,’’ the chamber said in a statement. Financial terms were not released.

Sputnik V has not yet been approved for use in the EU, but the body's regulator, the European Medicines Agency, or EMA, started a rolling review of the vaccine last week.

Russian authorities are working on 20 similar collaborations in Europe and the Sputnik V vaccine has been registered in 45 nations worldwide, the chamber said.

The EU has been criticized for its slow vaccine rollout and some EU nations have decided not to wait for the EMA’s approval. Hungary became the first EU country to authorize Sputnik V for use last month while Slovakia announced a deal last week to acquire 2 million Sputnik V doses and received the first shipment of 200,000 doses.

France’s government has had regular exchanges about Sputnik V, but the country now doesn't have a production site available that would meet the necessary requests so no contract has been signed so far to produce the vaccine in France, according to a French Industry Ministry official.

The official reiterated France’s position that the government isn't choosing vaccines because of their country of origin, but based on whether they are effective and safe and approved by the EMA.