Budapest, Hungary – Hungary has agreed to domestically produce China’s Sinopharm anti-Covid vaccine, Reuters reported earlier this week.
The Hungarian government has signed a letter of intent with the Chinese pharmaceutical company to develop, within the next 10 months, the required infrastructure to produce the Covid shot locally.
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said the deal would allow Hungary to respond quickly to possible new Covid mutations in the future and make the Central European country self-sufficient in vaccine production from the end of 2022.
The government has earmarked up to 55 billion forints (€157 million) to build the plant in the eastern city of Debrecen, which could produce the Sinopharm vaccine and a locally developed shot.
Plans to domestically produce the Chinese jab were first revealed by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in May following a meeting with his counterpart Wang Yi.
Hungary, whose government has cultivated close ties with Beijing in recent years, is the only EU country to have authorized the use and distribution of Sinopharm, which hasn’t been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
The move was met with controversy amid doubts surrounding the jab’s efficiency and concerns the decision to favour Russian and Chinese shots could have been more politically motivated than public health oriented.
The lack of transparency surrounding the procurement deal, on top of the hefty price paid by the Hungarian government for the shot, only added to the controversy.
Prime Minister Orban himself posted a picture in February saying that he had himself been inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine in an apparent bid to increase the public’s trust in the Chinese vaccine, which remains low.
A recent study published in July by two Hungarian scientists suggested the Sinopharm vaccine offered only poor protection from Covid-19 to the elderly, although experts agree that additional evidence would be needed to precisely assess its efficacy.
To address growing concerns over the efficiency of its vaccination program, the Hungarian government announced during the summer that third booster shots would be available to those who wish.