No contract signed to produce Russian COVID-19 shot, France says

PARIS (Reuters) - No company in France has signed a contract with Russia to produce its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, a spokesman for France’s industry minister said on Tuesday, appearing to contradict the head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund.

FILE PHOTO: Bottles with Russia's "Sputnik-V" vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are seen before inoculation at a clinic in Tver, Russia October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

“We have not identified a site which meets their requirements,” the spokesman said when asked about a possible deal signed with RDIF.

“As far as we’re aware, no contract has been signed by a company in France to produce the Sputnik V vaccine,” he said.

Earlier, the head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund said his organisation had struck deals with production facilities in Italy, Spain, France and Germany to manufacture the Russian shot.

Speaking to state channel Rossiya 24, RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev did not provide any details.

Dmitriev was speaking after RDIF signed a commercial deal with Swiss-based drugmaker Adienne to produce the vaccine in Italy.

An adviser to President Emmanuel Macron left the door open for a partnership between France and Russia on Sputnik V.

“It’s one topic on which we can have a positive cooperation,” the adviser told reporters. “One of the difficulties Sputnik is facing is having access to production capacity for the volumes they would want.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin asked for Macron’s help last autumn to produce the vaccine, the adviser said. Macron then sent a scientific mission to Russia to study the vaccine and has sought to help Moscow submit an application to the EU regulator.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not yet approved Sputnik V, but has began reviewing the shot for possible approval.

The vaccine has been approved, or is being assessed for approval, in three EU member states: Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The agreement between Italy and Russia, which will need approval from Italian regulators before production can commence, has been confirmed by both RDIF and the Italian-Russian chamber of commerce.

It marks the latest evidence that some EU companies are not willing to wait for the EMA to approve Sputnik V before pushing ahead with their own plans.

Scientists said the Russian vaccine was almost 92% effective, based on late-stage trial results published in The Lancet medical journal last month.

Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Caroline Paillez and Michel Rose; Additional reporting by Polina Nikolskaya and Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber; Editing by Bill Berkrot