German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed cooperating on vaccine production during a telephone call on Tuesday, according to a statement issued by the Kremlin.

“Issues of cooperation in combating the coronavirus pandemic were discussed, with an emphasis on possible prospects for joint production of vaccines,” the statement reads, adding that the two sides agreed to stay in contact on the matter.

Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine is not included in the EU’s vaccine portfolio, as it has faced acute criticism over its fast-track approval that skipped the third phase of trials. Under EU rules, any vaccine must be authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) before it can be marketed in any state of the 27-nation bloc.

So far, EMA has received no data from Russia or Hungary on Sputnik V or any other COVID-19 vaccine. Europe’s drug regulators have greenlighted only the vaccine shot developed by US drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, while a decision on Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate is awaited possibly on Wednesday. 

Back in November, Hungary’s plans to import the Russian jab, prompted an outcry by Brussels, which warned Budapest against damaging the trust on the safety and efficacy of vaccines endorsed by the bloc. However, Gergely Gulyas, the chief of staff of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the country will not use Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine, and will focus on the EU procurement mechanism or on China, instead, citing Moscow’s “inadequate” manufacturing capacity.

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