A growing roster of European leaders are advocating the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine amid frustration with the continent’s slow Covid-19 inoculation efforts, fueling controversy in a region whose relations with Moscow have deteriorated markedly in recent years.
The disputes have already prompted one prime minister to resign, widened vaccine divisions among European Union member states and sparked a war of words with Moscow.
Wider acceptance of the shot in the bloc is a measure of the alarm over the slow rollout of the EU-led vaccination drive and could amount to a soft power coup for the Kremlin.
Sputnik V hasn’t been authorized by the EU drug regulator but is already being used in Hungary and Slovakia, and has received backing from some politicians and health officials in Germany and Italy. Austria said this week that it was in talks with Russia to buy one million doses. On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed possible vaccine cooperation on a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But many European officials have dismissed the shot. Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner overseeing vaccine production, has argued that the EU has no need for the Russian vaccine. Other officials have expressed concern that Russia is using its vaccines to gain a geopolitical edge abroad. Europe’s production capacity, meanwhile, is mainly deployed to Western vaccines, leaving little room for Sputnik V.