Ex-National MPs apply to import Russian-made COVID-19 vaccine - report

Two former National MPs are reportedly trying to ink a deal to import a Russian-made COVID-19 vaccine.

But experts here say even if the Kremlin agrees, it's unlikely authorities here will allow it.

Ross Meurant and Don Brash - with unnamed backers - have formed a new company to import the Sputnik V vaccine, which is yet to undergo rigorous testing, Stuff reports.

Meurant, who has long had businesses interests in Russia, said it would be "a matter of personal choice to decide if you take a vaccine" and blamed scepticism on anti-Russian "frenzy".

University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said Sputnik V wouldn't get approval from Medsafe "in a million years", and if Sputnik V was rolled out but proved ineffective, it could discourage people from using future vaccines that did work.

Russian scientists have not shared the data they collected about Sputnik V in its first two trials yet, but that hasn't stopped officials rolling it out to tens of thousands of people - including President Vladimir Putin's own daughter - in phase III trials. Similar trials will be held in other countries, Reuters reported on Thursday. 

Normally it takes years to develop an effective vaccine. Labs in several countries are working on their own vaccines against COVID-19, including China, the US, UK and New Zealand. About 30 have reached the human trial phase, but only Sputnik V has been approved for use by any government. 

If the "West fails to produce the silver bullet, Russia could provide a gold one", Meurant told Stuff. 

The Government here has allocated about $37 million towards local and international efforts to create a vaccine against COVID-19, which has killed nearly 900,000 people since the start of the year. Hundreds of millions have been set aside to buy one, when it's available. 

Australia has signed a deal with UK drug manufacturer AstraZeneca to manufacture and distribute a vaccine it's developing with scientists at the University of Oxford - widely considered the most promising candidate in the West, which is in phase III trials.