Slovakia Health Minister Resigns Over Sputnik V Dispute

Slovakia’s health minister has announced his resignation after coming under pressure from the country’s four-party ruling coalition for ordering Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, Reuters reported Thursday.

Slovakia became the second EU country after Hungary to purchase Sputnik V for national use, bypassing EU authorization of the jab. Prime Minister Igor Matovic ignited backlash from two coalition parties when he ordered shipments of the vaccine in late February without the coalition’s approval, with his critics saying he should have waited for EU authorization.

“Two coalition parties made my resignation a condition for them to stay in the coalition. In such a situation, I think there was no point arguing… I am not glued to my seat (at the ministry),” Reuters quoted Health Minister Marek Krajci as saying at a televised briefing.

Matovic said the health minister had to resign because “those who put obstacles in his way made him their target,” Reuters reported.

Matovic found himself at the center of another scandal after he made an offhand joke this month about paying for Sputnik V shipments with Ukrainian territory.

Countries like Slovakia and Hungary have sought out Sputnik V as the EU grapples with limited supplies for its vaccination campaign.

Slovakia, which has one of the world’s worst Covid-19 death rates per capita, has already received about 200,000 doses of the Russian-made vaccine, which is currently undergoing rolling review with the European Medicines Agency.

EU Has ‘No Need’ for Russia’s Coronavirus Vaccine, Official Says

The European Union has no need for Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine which is currently under review for EU authorization, an executive in charge of the bloc’s vaccination rollout said Sunday.

Internal markets commissioner Thierry Breton, who last week called Sputnik V “a good vaccine,” argued that the EU is capable of achieving continent-wide immunity through its own production capacities.

“We have absolutely no need of Sputnik V,” Breton told French television, according to Reuters.

Breton’s remarks drew immediate accusations of bias from the shot’s developers “just because it is Russian.”

“His comments pressure Sputnik V not to go through the EU medicines regulator EMA approval process because @ThierryBreton believes all is great with EU vaccinations,” said Sputnik V’s Twitter account.

“Are Europeans happy with Breton’s vaccination approach?” it asked, hinting at criticism over the EU’s tepid vaccination drive amid rising Covid-19 cases across the continent.

The EMA, or the European Medicines Agency, began a “rolling review” of Sputnik V earlier in March to analyze existing data on its safety and effectiveness before deciding whether Russia could apply for EU authorization.

A peer-reviewed study published last month assessed Sputnik V’s effectiveness at 91.6%. More than 50 countries, including EU members Hungary and Slovakia, have approved Sputnik V so far.

A number of EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have signalled in recent days that they would order Sputnik V doses even if the EMA did not authorize it.

“If such a European order did not come about,” Merkel was quoted as saying Friday, then we must go the German way.”

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