Could Norway start using the Russian Sputnik vaccine?

Could Norway start using the Russian Sputnik vaccine?
Photo: Zoltan BALOGH / POOL / AFP
A shortage of vaccines and prioritisation of doses away from rural areas and towards Oslo has meant some local authorities are calling on the Norwegian government to order supplies of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine. Does this mean that we could see the vaccine in Norway?

Do local authorities in Norway want to buy the Sputnik vaccine?

Several mayors in the Troms og Finnmark county are in favour of the government ordering the Sputnik vaccine, named after the first satellite sent up into space.

Acting mayor of border municipality Sør-Varanger, Pål Gabrielsen and Hammerfest mayor Marianne Sivetsen Næss have told broadcaster NRK they want access to the Sputnik vaccine.

However, there haven’t been any calls from local authorities in the rest of the country for the government to order the Russian vaccine.

Why do they want it?

Gabrielsen told NRK that he believes that municipalities are being forced to compete with each other as there are not enough vaccine doses to go around.

“This is a situation that should have been avoided by us asking Russia for access to the Sputnik vaccine,” he said.

He also believes that Norway’s vaccination process would be sped if access to the Russian vaccine is granted, especially in wake of the recent tweak to the vaccination strategy, which will see some vaccines diverted from areas with lower infection rates, including rural areas in the north, towards Oslo and outlying regions, which have seen more spread of the virus.

READ ALSO: Norway agrees to regional Covid-19 vaccine prioritisation in change of strategy

What does the government have to say?

So far, the Norwegian government has not announced any plans to adopt the Sputnik vaccine. However, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) is continually reviewing and updating its vaccination strategy. 

The director of the health authority, Camilla Stoltenberg, recently told NRK that it will be prolonging the period between doses for mRNA vaccines and adopting the AstraZeneca vaccine for use on over 65´s on the back of new data.

How likely is it to happen?

It is looking increasingly likely that Norway and other European countries will see use of the Sputnik vaccine at some point.

At the moment the Sputnik vaccine is not yet approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for use. Some of the mayors in Finnmark are only in favour of the vaccine if it does get approval.

The Russian vaccine is currently in the process of gaining EMA approval and has been accepted for assessment via ‘rolling review’, in which the producer sends in data to the agency on an ongoing basis, newspaper VG reported on Thursday.

In a statement, EMA said it had decided to commence the approval process based on data from clinical studies of adults which indicate that the Sputnik vaccine produces the necessary immunity against Covid-19.

Russia approved the vaccine for use domestically in August last year, at which point at had not seen wide-scale clinical trials, a break with normal procedure for developing vaccines. The country has also been criticised for a lack of transparency over results.

But promising data showing high levels of efficacy with the Sputnik vaccine was published in February 2021.

If the EMA approves the vaccine, it will automatically also be approved for use in Norway.

However, by the time we might see the vaccine in Norway, the country’s supply issues are likely to have been eased by much larger deliveries of other vaccines arriving in May and June.


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