The agreement has been confirmed by Moscow’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund RDIF, which markets Sputnik V internationally, Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Adienne, and the Italian-Russian chamber of commerce. It will need to be approved by Italian regulators before production can get underway.
Kirill Dmitriev, RDIF’s head, told Russian state TV his fund had also forged deals with production facilities in Spain, France and Germany to produce Sputnik – although he did not offer specific details about these.
The revelation is the latest indication that some companies may press ahead with plans without waiting for the European Union’s regulator – the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – to grant its approval to Sputnik V.
Scientists said the Russian vaccine was almost 92 percent effective, based on peer-reviewed late-stage trial results published in The Lancet medical journal last month.
Sputnik V has already been approved or is being assessed for approval in three EU member states – Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
EU officials have said Brussels could start negotiations about a possible agreement to buy vaccines if at least four members request it.
Meanwhile, the Italian-Russian chamber of commerce said yesterday the Italian move paved the way for the creation of Sputnik V’s first production facility in Europe outside Russia.
JUST IN: Archbishop Welby urged to explain Meghan’s private wedding claim
Lugano-based Adienne Pharma & Biotech has yet to comment and RDIF has so far refused to provide further detail on the deal beyond confirming it.
The Italian government has played no role in the deal, an insider said, nor had it even been informed of the operation, which is nevertheless “legitimate” and “in line with market dynamics”.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Italy-related plan could help quickly satisfy demand for the shot abroad.
An EMA official urged EU members last week to refrain from approving Sputnik V at the national level while the agency was still reviewing it, triggering demands for a public apology from the vaccine’s developers.
Mr Peskov called the EMA official’s comment “inappropriate at the very least”.
A spokesman for Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Rome was not applying particular pressure on the EU to secure the approval of Sputnik V.
Mr Draghi has urged the bloc to pursue all possible options to secure vaccines approved by the EMA, he added.
The EU has been widely criticised for the pace of its vaccine rollout, and for problems with acquiring sufficient doses.
As of Sunday, just 9.34 doses per 100 people had been administered to citizens of the bloc, according to the Our World In Data website.
By contrast, for the UK, which gave the green light to the Pfizer vaccine weeks before Brussels did, the figure is 33.71.