German expert panel head says he would back Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

FILE PHOTO: A person receives an injection with Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Donskoye
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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The head of a German expert panel that will help decide in which order people should receive the vaccine has come out in support of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, as Europe cautiously weighs producing and using it.

"This is a good vaccine, which looks like it will be approved in the EU at some point. The Russian researchers are very experienced in vaccines," Thomas Mertens, head of STIKO, Germany's expert panel on vaccine use, told daily Rheinische Post on Wednesday.

The European Union's drugs regulator began reviewing the shot for possible approval last week. Three Western-made vaccines are already cleared for use in the bloc and the go-ahead for a fourth one is expected soon.

On a national level, 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.

Mertens also praised the "clever construct" of Sputnik V's two-shot regimen.

Peer-reviewed late-stage trial results published last month showed that the Russian vaccine was almost 92% effective.In a first for Europe, Swiss-based pharmaceutical company Adienne has agreed to make Sputnik in Italy.

The head of Moscow's RDIF sovereign wealth fund said on Tuesday that more manufacturing deals had been struck with production facilities in Spain, France and Germany.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger, Editing by William Maclean)