Russia has asked Slovakia to return 200,000 doses of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine after Slovak testing indicated serious quality control issues.
The Slovak regulatory agency, the State Institute for Drug Control, reported that the batches it received did not “have the same characteristics and properties” as the Sputnik vaccine that was peer-reviewed in the Lancet and found to be 91.6 percent effective.
In light of Slovakia’s doubts about the quality of the vaccine doses, Russia went on the attack on Twitter. Russia’s official “Sputnik V” Twitter account claimed in a thread that the Slovak regulator has “launched a disinformation campaign against #SputnikV and plans additional provocations.” The account labeled the agency’s testing results as “fake news.”
The Sputnik V account further accused the Slovak regulator of violating its contract and committing an “act of sabotage” by having doses of Sputnik V tested in a laboratory that is not certified by the European Union. Now, Russia apparently wants the vaccine doses back.
According to the Sputnik V account, the Russian Direct Investment Fund—the sovereign fund that financially backed the vaccine’s development—sent a letter to the government of Slovakia on April 6 requesting that it “return the vaccine due to multiple contract violations so that it can be used in other countries.”
The Slovak regulatory agency reported that around 40 countries are using or planning to use Sputnik V, which is made in seven different locations in Russia as well as in plants in India and South Korea. But the vials of vaccine produced in different places and labeled Sputnik V are “only associated by the name,” according to the Slovak regulator.
“The comparability and consistency of different batches produced at different locations has not been demonstrated,” the Slovak regulator said, according to the New York Times. “In several cases, they appear to be vaccines with different properties (lyophilisate versus solution, single-dose ampoules versus multi-dose vials, different storage conditions, composition, and method of manufacture).”
Sputnik V has not been approved by the EU’s regulator, the European Medicines Agency, though the EMA has begun a rolling review of the vaccine. In the EU, Hungary has begun using Sputnik V in its mass vaccination campaign and, as of Thursday, Germany is looking into placing a pre-order with Moscow.
Slovakia received doses of Sputnik V after former Prime Minister Igor Matovic set up a secret deal to buy 2 million doses, according to the Associated Press. Matovic welcomed the first batch of 200,000 vaccines at an airport on March 1. But Matovic was forced out of office after Slovakia’s coalition government collapsed last month. He now serves as the finance minister and deputy prime minister in the new government.
In a Facebook post on April 8, Matovic slammed political opponents for the events that led Russia to request the country return the vaccines.
“CONGRATULATIONS IDIOTS!,” Matovic wrote.