“The Brussels Diary With Yana Toom”: Problem Of Russian Vaccine – Medical Or Political?


One year has passed since Europe began to think about survival in the era of coronavirus. A couple of months ago, it seemed that we were on the right track. Then something went wrong. The EU is almost hopelessly behind its competitors: we have fewer than four persons vaccinated per hundred of population. For comparison: in the United States, they have vaccinated 13 persons per 100 residents, in the UK – 19, in Israel – 61.

Everyone thought scepticism would be an obstacle to vaccination. No – the lack of a vaccine has been an obstacle. We would be happy to be vaccinated but there is nothing to vaccinate us with.

“Are you going to get vaccinated?” “I guess I am. If offered, of course.”

“Me? Why not. Sure!”

“I have not decided yet.”

“I do not know... Basically, I trust the Russian vaccine.” “But it is not yet in Estonia.” “No. And it probably won’t be.”

The Russian vaccine... I do not remember what it is called, but I am definitely not going to get vaccinated with it.

Absolutely. Of course, I am waiting for the vaccine. If the vaccine is registered, then it is reliable. I really want all this horror to end.

A few more figures. Experts believe that the economy will begin to recover when three quarters of the population will be vaccinated. If the current vaccination rate continues, the US will reach that level in 11 months, and Europe in a couple of years. For every week of lagging – compared to the US and Britain – we are losing 12 billion euros. As the saying goes, “the early bird gets the worm”. Whoever recovers first will be the leader of the post-COVID world.

It has been calculated that Europe needs to accelerate its vaccination six-fold. Where can we get the vaccine? One of the answers is "Sputnik V". Some trust it, others do not – this is everyone's personal business. But even if the EU approves the Russian vaccine from a medical point of view, there is still politics. To be honest, I feel sorry for the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Mr Borrell: he just wanted to improve relations with Moscow but was humiliated by Lavrov and lambasted by European politicians, including Lithuanians and Estonians, too.

On the other hand, Merkel and Macron are ready to use Sputnik – after its registration by the European Medicines Agency. And the lack of registration is not a problem for Hungary, which is already buying the Russian vaccine. The question is what will Estonia do.

For those who, as a matter of principle, do not want to entertain cooperation with their “eastern neighbour” until a change of power in the Kremlin, the question may soon arise: how, against the backdrop of a vaccine shortage, can we both save the EU and resist Russia's influence? One Swedish journalist suggests countries of goodwill will chip in, vaccinate the entire globe – and prevent the Russians and Chinese from influencing democracy. The reality, I think, will be much more prosaic: if we do not have enough of our own vaccines, the EU will improve relations with Russia, regardless of Navalny's term of sentence. All in all, we are building Nord Stream 2. To trade does not mean to betray democracy.