In Brief

Angela Merkel in talks to bring Russian Covid-19 vaccine to EU

German chancellor and Vladimir Putin discuss joint production of jab as criticism of Berlin’s vaccinations rollout intensifies

Angela Merkel has told Vladimir Putin that she is “open to the idea” of producing Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in the EU as part of efforts to tackle widespread shortages across the continent.

Following talks between the German chancellor and Russian president, the Kremlin issued a statement saying that “issues of cooperation in combating the coronavirus pandemic were discussed, with an emphasis on possible prospects for joint production of vaccines”, Politico reports.

A spokesperson for Merkel confirmed that the chancellor had told Putin “that she is open to the idea of bilateral cooperation for the purpose of tapping European production capacities [for the Russian vaccine]”. The spokesperson added that the proposal was dependent on the European Medicines Agency giving its approval to the Sputnik V vaccine.

The talks, conducted by phone on Tuesday, come amid allegations that Germany has “bungled” the rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine, says Bloomberg.

Among those who have challenged Merkel’s strategy of ceding responsibility for procuring vaccines to the EU is Olaf Scholz, a senior member of the left-wing Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and potential candidate for chancellor in September’s elections.

During a tense cabinet meeting, Scholz “presented Jens Spahn, the health minister and a member of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), with a four-page list of questions about his handling of the affair”, The Telegraph reports.

“This is about a very serious issue, whether we can properly protect the citizens of this country,” Scholz later told German television.

The row is a “clear signal that political manoeuvring has begun” ahead of federal elections later this year, says the newspaper. “But it is also a sign that the fall-out from the vaccine debacle threatens to engulf Mrs Merkel, who until now has been widely praised for her response to the virus.”

A total of 5.3 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are due to be delivered to Germany by mid-February, with a further 667,000 doses due every week from the end of January.

However, this tally would still leave Germany far short of the number of doses needed to vaccinate the population, amid rising infection rates and deaths.

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