Putin lashes out at G20 over vaccines

Rome (AFP) – Russia complained Saturday about lack of international recognition for its Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine at a G20 summit, where leaders agreed to step up global inoculation efforts.


"Despite the decisions of the G20, not all countries in need can have access to anti-Covid vaccines," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in video message comments to counterparts that were retransmitted on Russian state television.

"This happens mainly because of dishonest competition, protectionism and because some states, especially those of the G20, are not ready for mutual recognition of vaccines and vaccination certificates," Putin added.

In an apparent reference to the failure of Russia's Sputnik V to win foreign regulatory approval, Putin urged G20 health ministers to discuss the mutual recognition of vaccines and vaccination certificates "as soon as possible".

Earlier this month, South Africa refused to approve the Russian jab despite the country's dire need for vaccines, claiming it could increase the risk of HIV infection among men.

Sputnik V also lacks regulatory approval in the EU and the US.

Chinese President Xi Jinping -- who, like Putin did not travel to Rome for the summit and participated by video link -- made a similar call for the mutual recognition of vaccines, according to Chinese state media.

- Rising cases -

Putin and Xi were said to have avoided travelling to Italy due to tightening coronavirus restrictions in their home countries.

In Russia, where new cases are spiking despite the availability of the Sputnik V jab, Putin ordered a week-long paid holiday starting Saturday in a bid to contain the spread of the virus.

Russian authorities said Saturday that daily infection numbers had risen to 40,251, a record since the start of the pandemic, with only 32.5 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

At the G20, summit host and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the international community was "very close to meeting the WHO’s target of vaccinating 40 percent of the global population by the end of 2021".

"Now we must do all we can to reach 70 percent by mid-2022," he added.

According to a source following the summit discussions, "all the leaders" agreed to commit to the target set out by Draghi.

The Italian premier noted that while more than 70 percent of people in developed countries have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, the percentage drops to around three percent in the poorest parts of the world.

"These differences are morally unacceptable, and undermine the global recovery," he said.

The two-day summit in Rome of G20 leaders -- their first meeting in person since the global coronavirus pandemic -- also included climate change and threats to the global economic recovery on the agenda.

Their meeting was preceded Friday by G20 finance and health ministers' discussions, in which they also cited the urgency of meeting the 70 percent vaccination target by the middle of next year.

To meet the objective, they committed to "take steps to help boost the supply of vaccines and essential medical products and inputs in developing countries and remove relevant supply and financing constraints."