ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s central Lazio region, which includes the capital Rome, asked the national government on Friday to consider producing Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine once the European Union regulator gives its green light.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said it has begun reviewing Sputnik V, a process that could lead to its approval for use in all 27 EU countries, although no talks are yet underway about buying Sputnik V shots.
“I have asked the government to consider producing in Italy the Russian vaccine Sputnik V,” Lazio’s health chief Alessio D’Amato said in a statement.
D’Amato said he had met Russian scientists from Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, which developed and tested the vaccine. A scientific cooperation agreement would be signed by the Gamaleya Institute and Rome’s Spallanzani infectious disease hospital, he said.
Lazio, one of Italy’s most populous regions with almost 6 million residents, has so far managed to keep COVID-19 infections broadly under control compared with worse-hit regions such as Lombardy and Piedmont in the north.
A regional government source said Lazio plans to ask for 1 million shots of the Sputnik V vaccine.
“Italy should consider reserving some shots to be ready if and when EMA and (national regulator) Aifa give their approval,” D’Amato said.
“We need to use all the ammunition available in this war and to use all the effective vaccines available, particularly to defend us against variants,” he added.
Some Western scientists were initially sceptical about Sputnik V, which was approved in Russia in August 2020 before trial data was available. However, peer-reviewed late-stage trial results have since pointed to its effectiveness.
The EU has so far signed contracts with six European and U.S. vaccine makers for a total of nearly 2.6 billion doses for its population of 450 million and is negotiating further supplies.
Sputnik V has already been approved or is being assessed for approval in three eastern EU member states, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones)