Bratislava, Slovakia – Slovakia has approved the use of the Russian anti-COVID Sputnik V vaccine ahead of the approval from the EU’s medicines agency in a surprise announcement.
On Monday afternoon, a military cargo carrying the first 200,000 doses of the Russian-made jab landed in Slovakia’s eastern capital city of Kosice.
200,000 doses of Russian vaccine delivered in Slovakia
The deal for the purchase of 2 million doses of the Russian vaccine – the first million in March-April, and the second half to be delivered in May-June – was kept secret until the last minute, but Prime Minister Matovic had hinted on Sunday that “this will be a big week” for Slovakia with two “significant” decisions to be announced.
Like elsewhere in Europe, debate has been raging for weeks in Slovakia over whether or not the government should purchase the Sputnik jab, which hasn’t been authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Proponents point to other countries, including Serbia and Hungary, where the vaccine has already started being rolled out, and claim it’s the only solution to efficiently fight a resurgence of the virus amid widespread criticism regarding the EU’s chaotic vaccine procurement strategy.
Most EU member states, however, say they will only approve the use of Russia’s anti-COVID vaccine once it’s been authorized by the EMA.
Slovakia currently has one of the highest COVID death rates in the world and, like neighbouring Czech Republic, has moved to tighten restrictions this month to stem the rapid spread of the virus and avoid a collapse of its healthcare system.
Second EU member state to approve Sputnik V vaccine
After saying Slovakia would only approve the Russian-made jab once EU authorities gave their green light, Prime Minister Igor Matovic changed course due, according to analysts, to the rapidly deteriorating epidemiological situation in the country.
Despite concerns surrounding the vaccine’s efficiency, Matovic has been actively lobbying in favour of it for the past few weeks, but faced resistance from members of his cabinet.
Slovakia now becomes the second EU member state to approve the use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine after Hungary.
Speaking on Monday evening from Kosice airport, Matovic claimed the Russian deliveries would speed up the vaccination process by more than 40%, while Health Minister Marek Krajci said the Russian-made jab could start being administered within the population in about two weeks.
Main photo credit: Official Facebook page of Igor Matovic