Hungary becomes first EU country to reach agreement on delivery of Sputnik V vaccine

By bne IntelliNews January 24, 2021

Hungary is purchasing 2mn doses Sputnik V vaccines, enough to inoculate 1mn people, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto announced after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on January 22.

The vaccine will be delivered in three stages. The first shipment containing 600,000 doses will be delivered within 30 days. Russia will send Hungary 1mn doses in the second month and 400,000 in the third.

The National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYEI) recently approved the AstraZeneca vaccine as well as the emergency use of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.  The National Public Health Center (NNK) will have the final say, but it is expected to be a formality. A decision is expected within two weeks.

Opening the market to more vaccine manufacturers could spur competition and have a positive effect, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.

Hungary became the first country in the EU to agree with Russia on the delivery of Sputnik V vaccines and it was the first country in the 27 nation block to seal a deal with Chinese Sinopharm. The delivery of as many as 1mn doses of vaccines could start once Hungarian authorities give the authorisation for domestic distribution.

EU officials said member states can strike deals with manufacturers not part of the joint European Union procurement. Drugs that get clearance by national authorities for emergency use may only be distributed within the given country.

The government has lashed out at Brussels for the shortage of supply of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, although slow delivery is due to reshuffling production capacities.

Pfizer is set to deliver 6.6mn doses of vaccine to Hungary before the end of 2021, the company told leftist daily Nepszava. The sole broadsheet outside of centralised pro-government media conglomerate wrote that the cabinet did not reveal this information.

Orban said it is "unacceptable" for Hungarian lives to be lost because of the "slow" pace of delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

The prime minister also announced the construction of a vaccine factory in Debrecen, the second-largest city in Hungary, which is located near the Romanian border.

"It is in Hungary’s national interest to secure further safe and effective vaccines in order to speed up vaccination in the midst of the pandemic", Szijjarto said, said, adding that the Russian vaccine will save lives and speed up Hungary’s return to normal life.

Lavrov said cooperation in the fight against the epidemic represented a new area of bilateral ties. He added that Sputnik V had proven effective in Hungary and the Hungarian experts had approved its use accordingly.

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