Health Minister Chris Fearne has called on the European Commission to negotiate with Russia so that the Sputnik V vaccine can be made available to all EU citizens. 

Last week, the developers of the vaccine said they had reached production agreements in key EU states as the European Medicines Agency deliberates official approval for the jab.

Speaking on CNN, the deputy prime minister said there should be a joint approach to securing the vaccine for EU citizens.  

He said: “I believe there is scope for the European Union, the commission, to start negotiating with the Russian authorities, jointly, so that if Sputnik V is approved then it is available for joint procurement through the advanced purchase mechanism for all European citizens.”

Malta is leading the way in the EU when it comes to vaccination roll out, and Fearne said that around 24 per cent of the population has received the first dose of the vaccine. 

So far, almost 146,000 vaccine doses have been administered as the island uses Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. 

Fearne said that one of the reasons behind the island's success was that it ordered the maximum amount of vaccines it could through the advanced joint EU procurement mechanism. 

“We have utilised all the opportunities to get as many vaccines as possible to our island," he said.

Other reasons for the island’s success are down to a robust health care system and efficient use of the vaccine.  

“As soon as they (vaccines) arrive on the island, of course keeping enough dosage for the second vaccination, we are utilising all the vaccine that we have available.”

'Over invested in vaccine'

Asked about claims from Austria that Malta signed ‘secret contracts’ to receive more vaccines, Fearne said that the island procured all vaccines through the EU mechanism. 

“We have over invested, it is true. If we get all the vaccine that we have ordered we would have more vaccine than we need for our population, but that means that we are getting larger numbers in the first and second quarter of 2021,” he explaned.

He praised the joint EU scheme, saying that without it, some EU countries would not have had the vaccine. 

On the topic of travelling, Fearne said that a vaccination passport would enable people who have been vaccinated to travel with fewer restrictions. 

“Safety of our community comes first, it always has and it will remain, but restricting people who are safe to travel, I think we should do away with these restrictions," he said. 

EMA experts to visit Russia in April for Sputnik review

Experts from the European Medicines Agency are set to visit Russia next month to review clinical trials of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Monday.

"On April 10, a group of EMA experts is coming to get acquainted, (and) to review clinical trials which have been conducted in our country," Murashko said at a televised meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin.

During the meeting, Putin dismissed foreign criticism of the Sputnik V vaccine and said he would get the jab on Tuesday. 

Describing EU remarks on the vaccine as "strange", Putin said: "We are not imposing anything on anyone... Whose interests are such people protecting -- of pharmaceutical companies or the interests of citizens of European countries?" 

"Vaccination is of course the voluntary choice of every person... By the way, I intend to do it myself tomorrow," he said in televised remarks.

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