Russian vaccines have not coped with Nicaraguan bacilli

The vaccine production plant in Nicaragua has not yet begun to work.
Solemnly opened in October 2016, the Russian-Nicaraguan vaccine production plant, located in the city of Managua, never made it on schedule. Russia has invested in the project 1 billion rubles. - 60% of the total funding. However, as it became known to Kommersant, more than $ 10 million is not enough to start production. The Federal Medical Biological Agency (FMBA), which is implementing the project, did not confirm the information on the lack of financing, stating: information about the problems of the plant is distributed by competing producers. In the St. Petersburg Research Institute of Vaccines and Serums (SPbNIIVS) assured that the start of the plant is scheduled for 2018.

"It was just selling illusions"

The decision to jointly build a plant in Managua by Russia and Nicaragua was taken in 2013: the project was approved by the presidents of the two countries, Vladimir Putin and Daniel Ortega. The grand opening of the plant took place on October 22, 2016, attended by the Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova. At the opening ceremony she said that "modern equipment is being actively installed, the commissioning process is beginning". According to her, the release of the flu vaccine (one of the seven types of vaccines that were planned to be produced at the joint venture) was to begin in 2017, "after the end of the process of validation of production." Director of SPbNIIVS them. Mechnikov Victor Trukhin then said that "all the necessary procedures are planned to be completed as soon as possible - in five to six months (March-April 2017 -" b ")."

However, as it became known to Kommersant, until now the plant has not earned. Pharmacist Nicaraguan businessman and former deputy of the country's parliament Alberto Lakayo told Kommersant that only the construction of the plant's building was completed: "We can not speak about the imminent start of production. In fact, nobody is interested in opening an enterprise, it was just selling illusions. "

In the Ministry of Health, Nicaragua did not respond to a request from Kommersant regarding the fate of the plant. Representatives of the Russian embassy and Rossotrudnichestvo in Nicaragua did not comment on the situation, having recommended to apply directly to Mechnikov, a joint Russian-Nicaraguan enterprise that manages the plant. The director of the company, Stanislav Uiba, did not reply to Kommersant's questions. However, the former director of the enterprise Vitaly Granovsky told Kommersant about the situation. He asserts that SPbNIIVS, which is responsible for the implementation of the project, "initially underestimated" its cost.

Recall, Russia has invested in the creation of production of more than 60% of its value, about 1 billion rubles. ($ 14 million at the rate at the end of 2015), the remaining 40% are funds of Nicaragua, they were invested by the Institute of Social Insurance (INSS). At the same time, according to Vitaly Granovsky, initially the planned budget was not enough: "The project cost more than about $ 10 million." He said that the Nicaraguan side was ready to increase funding, but SPbNIIVS did not have additional funds.

Kommersant has an extract from the internal document of SPbNIIVS, which states that "the deviation from the planning articles amounted to more than $ 10.67 million, while the funding gap was estimated at more than $ 7.28 million." In particular, the construction of the plant was directed not $ 5 million, as it was laid, but $ 8.2 million. A source familiar with the situation told Kommersant that another $ 2 million "must be paid for the land." Earlier it was officially announced that the land is provided by the Nicaraguan side for $ 1.

Nicaraguan health expert Ana Kyros told the local newspaper La Prensa: the construction of the plant was not supported by a "qualitative" marketing plan and feasibility study. Because of this, she said, the funds of the Russian side were invested exclusively in the construction of infrastructure: "They are not enough to equip the vaccine production complex itself." Earlier, representatives of the initiator of the construction of the plant - Innova Salutem (International Initiative for the Protection of the Health of the Population of Nicaragua and Latin America) - extended their vision of the reasons for the delay. From the published report of the association, to which SPbNIIVS and INSS are participants, it followed: the main reasons for the shortage of funds were the fall of the ruble and the economic crisis caused, in particular, by sanctions in response to the Crimea's accession to Russia.

"The implementation of the project is clearly according to plan"

According to Kommersant's information, by the time of the grand opening in October, the facility was not really fully equipped - the equipment necessary for bottling and packaging the vaccine was not yet available. After the ceremony with the participation of Veronica Skvortsova, the equipment of the plant was resumed, but at a very slow pace. "In the near future, the plant is unlikely to be completed because of all outstanding financial problems," Vitaly Granovsky said. He left the project before the official opening of the plant. According to one of Kommersant sources, the reason for his departure was "complicated relations with the government of Nicaragua": "The decision to dismiss was taken by the first lady of the country Rosario Murillo". According to the former director Mechnikov, Laureano Ortega (son of the president and his special representative for relations with Russia) previously asked Moscow to send a certain percentage of investments to party needs - but the Russian side refused. In addition, there was a conflict with the so-called Mexican group, united around the Gennoma Lab, which has business interests in Nicaragua. At the initial stage of the project, SPbNIIVS actively cooperated with Gennoma Lab, which is led by Pablo Monroy, a close friend of President Ortega. A source at Kommersant asserts that it was the Mexicans who helped the SPbNIIVS management establish contact with the Nicaraguan government, because in exchange for this service they expected to get a share in the project. However, when the initiative was funded by the Russian government, Mexicans refused to provide services. This, according to Vitaly Granovsky, provoked an internal conflict, including with the family of Ortega, which eventually led to the change of leadership Mechnikov. After his resignation on February 10, 2017, Mr. Granovsky published an open letter in the newspaper La Prensa, in which he noted: "I am ashamed that the project is in critical condition. There is a threat of the collapse of international hopes for the start of production of vaccines for the needs of the (Latin American-Kommersant) region. "

The Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, in response to a question from Kommersant, was recommended to address the situation around the plant "for detailed comments to the FMBA, which directly implements the project." The head of the FMBA, Vladimir Uiba, told Kommersant that "the dissemination of information about alleged problems with the construction of the plant in the opposition publication may be the result of internal political struggle in Nicaragua or competition": "Supply of Russian flu vaccine with the prospect of direct production in Nicaragua and expansion Line of manufactured products are contrary to the interests of foreign companies, depriving them of their profits and sales territories in the region. " A source from Kommersant in the Russian government recalled that local elections should be held in Nicaragua in November 2017: "Speculation around the project is nothing more than an internal political struggle".

Victor Trukhin, commenting on the information about the plant's idle time and the shortage of funds for completing the equipment and launching the production, told Kommersant that "the project is being implemented according to plan". "It provides for three stages: construction of a production building, which was completed in October 2016, commissioning of equipment, which ends this year, and production in the next," said Trukhin. He also noted that the company's shareholders "were forced to dismiss the company's general director Vitaly Granovsky for unsatisfactory work."

In the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation on the request of Kommersant, whether verification is conducted on the situation with the Russian-Nicaraguan enterprise, they answered evasively. "In terms of audits of the Accounting Chamber, this event is still being specified," the press service of the ministry said.

According to an informed source from Kommersant, at the moment, besides the idle time of the Nicaraguan plant, Innova Salutem has other problems in Latin America. Last winter, a vaccine was delivered from the Russian Federation, but it was found out: the medicines were produced and bottled not where it was stated by the manufacturer - SPbNIIVS. Therefore, as the interlocutor of Kommersant notes, "the question of trust in the leadership of the St. Petersburg Institute from the side of Latin American partners and the Pan American Health Organization remains open."

According to the expert of the RSUH, an expert on Latin America, Mikhail Belyat, the situation with Mechnikov is a symbiosis of "Latin Americanism" and the national character of the Nicaraguans, formed as a result of a number of social and economic reasons, with "Russian bureaucracy." The expert believes that the situation should be treated as a special case, which as a whole will not have a negative impact on relations with Nicaragua - "one of Russia's most important partners in the region". "Nicaragua is important to us in many ways - for example, due to the geopolitical situation and the possible alternative to the Panama Canal of Nicaraguan. It's a market for Russian goods, including weapons and equipment, "Mikhail Belyat explained to Kommersant." Nicaragua is one of the few remaining strongpoints of Russia's influence on Latin America. "