Romanian Prime Minister Florin Cîțu said on Saturday that Romania will shortly be able to produce its own coronavirus vaccine, while at the same time saying that his country will not use Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Transylvanian Hungarian news portal transindex examines whether Romania can actually manage this feat.
On Saturday, after receiving the second dose of the Moderna vaccine, Cîțu announced at an impromptu press conference that his government wrote a letter to the European Commission expressing its willingness to help with vaccine production. The news went viral, since currently there are only a handful of production facilities in Europe capable of producing a coronavirus vaccine.
The issue is even more unclear because Cîțu did not specify whether Romania would offer to participate in actual production or just packaging of a vaccine — currently all three European manufacturers handle the two elements separately.
Journalists and specialists alike speculate that Cîțu was probably thinking of the Cantacuzino Research Institute in Bucharest playing a key role in any such vaccine, but that hope seems overly optimistic
“If Cantacuzino had remained open and had started a modernization process over the years with a serious investment, it would now have had a good chance of being one of the manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccine. Perhaps not the two that are based on mRNA technology (Pfizer and Moderna) but on a third type from AstraZeneca. Unfortunately, due to the closure of the institute, this plan is completely unworkable at the moment,” said Dragos Damian, CEO of the Kolozsvár (Cluj)-based pharmaceutical company Terapia-Ranbaxy and president of the Association of Romanian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers.
Not only.is Damian skeptical but also doctors and health professionals expressed their doubts about the prime minister’s statement.
“We know that the Cantacuzino Institute, founded in 1921, has a long tradition in the production of various vaccines and had a European-wide reputation decades ago. But unfortunately, the under-funding of the last 30 years rendered it unable to produce results. It is not possible to breathe life into these centers overnight,” Radu Țincu, a specialist at the Bucharest Emergency Hospital, told AlephNews, adding that he thought Romania was very far from the possibility of actually producing any such vaccine.
“There are European regulations that Romania has to comply with… I do not think that the production of vaccines can be started from one month to the next. It is likely that large investments will be needed in the technical infrastructure of the Cantacuzino Institute,” said Țincu, who said that the prime minister’s announcement was devoid of reality.
The current head of the Cantacuzino Institute also spoke about Cîțu’s vaccine claims, saying that it is very risky to state in the current conditions that Cantacuzino can start vaccine production within a deadline. According to Florin Oancea, director of the institute, the most they can do is provide their expertise to guide the process, as there are still specialists whose knowledge can be used in this field.
Title image: A batch of Moderna vaccines arrive at the Cantacuzino Institute in Bucharest, Romania. (source: mapn.ro)