The US is the worst-affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 29 million infections and 525,000 deaths.
Russia has signed a deal to produce its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Italy, the first contract in the European Union, the Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce announced on Tuesday.
The agreement will need approval from Italian regulators before production can be launched.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday the move would help satisfy the demand for the shot abroad.
The Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce said the deal means the creation of Europe’s first Sputnik V production facility, which is hoped to start work by July and make 10 million doses this year.
“The innovative production process will help create new jobs and allow Italy to control the entire production of the compound,” the chamber said in a statement.
Financial terms were not released.
Russian authorities are working on 20 similar collaborations in Europe and the Sputnik V vaccine has been registered in 45 nations worldwide, the group said.
“This agreement is the first of its kind with a European partner,” Vincenzo Trani, head of the chamber, said. “It can be called a historic event, which is proof of the good state of relations between our countries and shows that Italian companies can see beyond political differences.”
The deal was signed with Adienne Srl, the Italian subsidiary of a Swiss-based pharmaceutical company, and Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund which markets Sputnik V internationally
Dmitriev told Italy’s RAI 3 television channel on Sunday that many Italian regions were eager to produce the vaccine.
“What we are offering is a true production partnership that will create jobs in Italy, and you can control the product, because it will be produced in Italy, and this product can not only save many lives in Italy, but it can be exported,” he said.
Italy’s move comes as other European Union members have shown they are not willing to wait for the EU’s own regulator – the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – to grant its approval for Sputnik V.
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 with a vaccine producer if at least four member countries request it.
Last week, the Amsterdam-based EMA launched a rolling review of Sputnik V – a key step towards it potentially being approved as the first non-Western jab to be used in the 27-nation bloc.
Late-stage trial results published in The Lancet medical journal last month suggest Sputnik V is almost 92 percent effective. The results were in line with efficacy data reported at earlier stages of the trial, which has been running in Moscow since September.
The EU has so far authorised three vaccines – the shots by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford.
A senior EMA official urged the bloc’s members last week to refrain from approving Sputnik V at the national level while the agency was still reviewing it, prompting the vaccine’s developers to demand a public apology.
Russia’s Peskov on Tuesday branded the EMA official’s comments “inappropriate at the very least”.