Hungary becomes first EU country to buy Russia’s Sputnik coronavirus vaccine

Foreign minister Péter Szijjártó made the announcement at a press conference in Moscow following trade talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov but did not say how much the arrangement would end up costing Budapest.

“Under the terms of our agreement, we are buying an amount sufficient to inoculate 1 million people,” Mr Szijjártó said.

“This represents 2 million doses in three tranches. An amount to inoculate 300,000 people in the first month, for half a million people in the second month and 200,000 people in the third.”

The agreement comes just days after Hungary’s pharmaceutical regulator granted approval to both Sputnik V and the UK’s Oxford-AstraZeneca version, as Budapest strives to lift lockdown measures to boost its economy while sidestepping the growing impatience being experienced across Europe over delays in deliveries of Western vaccines.

The European Medicines Agency has yet to approve either the Russian vaccine or the AstraZeneca alternative but is expected to reach a verdict on the latter two on 29 January.

Scientists have raised eyebrows at the speed at which Moscow launched its vaccine, unveiled by the Gamaleya Research Institute in August, giving the necessary regulatory go-ahead and beginning mass vaccinations before full trials confirming its safety and efficacy had been completed.

Moscow claims Sputnik V is 92 per cent effective at protecting people from Covid-19 based on interim results but has yet to publish the full dataset from its trials.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday that his country cannot begin to lift social restrictions until it is in a position to carry out a mass inoculation programme. He said the best approach was to authorise the use of several vaccines because competition would force manufacturers to speed up their shipments.

“We don’t need explanations, we need vaccines,” Mr Orbán told state radio.

The authoritarian has pursued what he has called “good pragmatic relations” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia ever since he came to power in 2010. His nation is heavily dependent on natural gas imported from the Eastern European power, whose state energy company, Rosatom, is building a nuclear power plant on its territory.

Hungary Approves Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine

Hungarian health authorities have approved Russia’s coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, the government said Sunday, with 40,000 doses of the jab already to be given.

Official testing has been completed “and the vaccine may be administered”, Miklos Kasler, the human resources minister who is in charge of health, said on social media.

The government had announced Tuesday that it had taken delivery of 40,000 doses of Sputnik V, a first within the European Union.

It is the first batch of a total order of two million doses to be supplied over three months.

Initially viewed with scepticism in the West, the Russian vaccine has since convinced experts of its efficacy.

The medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday published an analysis of final stage testing results showing Sputnik V to be 91.6%  effective against symptomatic forms of Covid-19.

Hungary, a country of 9.8 million people close to Moscow, has repeatedly criticized the slow pace of the EU’s process for acquiring vaccines.

It is also the first EU member state to have reached an accord with the Chinese laboratory Sinopharm, announcing an order of five million doses of its jab.

Inoculation with the Sinopharm vaccine was to begin later in February.

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