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After Hungary, Czech Republic considering use of Russian vaccine

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Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Republic might authorize the use of Russia’s Sputnik V anti-COVID vaccine and follow the “Hungarian way”, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said after a visit to Budapest.

Czech Republic mulls use of Russian and Chinese vaccine

Last week, the Czech Premier led a delegation to meet with Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban and discuss Hungary’s experience in the fight against COVID-19, including its purchase of the Russian and Chinese vaccines, both of which have not been approved by EU authorities.

“Vaccines are not a political question, but one of safety”, PM Babis said at a press conference following the meeting. “I do all I can to get as many vaccines as possible, if they’re safe”. He urged the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve the Russian jab, adding that he was considering the “Hungarian route” of issuing an emergency approval outside of the bloc’s procurement strategy.

Moscow says its vaccine is 92% effective in protecting against the novel coronavirus, but some experts remain sceptical and the EMA has yet to approve its use.

The Czech Prime Minister was accompanied by a host of health experts, including top epidemiologist and former Health Minister Roman Prymula who, after consulting with Hungarian specialists on the matter, said he was in favour of ordering Sputnik V doses for the Czech Republic.

Czech government divided on the issue

A notorious ally of Moscow and Beijing, Czech President Milos Zeman for his part supported the idea of using the Russian jab, noting that it “is already being successfully used in Hungary” and that no efforts should be spared to contain the epidemic, which shows no signs of slowing down in many European countries.

Current Health Minister Jan Blatny, on the other hand, noted it would be “unacceptable” to use any vaccine without the EMA approval, “not because it is from Russia, but because it would not have this approval.”

Hungary, which has been critical of the EU’s vaccine strategy and slow rollout, became the first country to purchase the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. The Hungarian government ordered up to 2 million doses, 40,000 of which are already in the country and could be administered this week. Hungarian authorities also approved the emergency use of China’s Sinopharm vaccine at the end of January.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is due to travel to Serbia which, like Hungary, has approved the use of the Russian and Chinese anti-COVID vaccines.

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