VIENNA (Reuters) – Austria will only buy Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine if the European Medicines Agency approves it, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said on Tuesday, further clarifying its position on the planned purchase.
Facing public frustration at a slow vaccine roll-out, Kurz said on March 31 Austria would probably order a million Sputnik V doses within a week, but completion of that order still has yet to be announced.
It would be the first by a western European country. Hungary and Slovakia are the only European Union countries to have bought Sputnik V, and only Hungary has used it so far. Kurz clarified on April 19 that Austria would await EMA approval before using it.
“As far as the contract negotiations are concerned, they have been completed, so we do not see that as the big challenge but rather the decisive factor is simply how long EMA needs for approval here,” Kurz told a news conference with his Slovak counterpart Eduard Heger.
Heger took office last month after his predecessor Igor Matovic was forced out by a political scandal sparked by Matovic’s surprise purchase of Sputnik V.
A spokesman for Kurz’s office added: “EMA approval is a prerequisite for the purchase. The contract will also be based on that.”
EMA’s decision is expected in May or June.
Peer-reviewed late-stage trial results published in The Lancet medical journal showed Sputnik V was almost 92% effective.
Many European officials, however, question Russia’s intentions in exporting it when it has yet to vaccinate most of its own population.
Brazil’s health regulator on Monday rejected Sputnik V after staff highlighted “inherent risks” and “serious” defects, citing lack of information guaranteeing its safety, quality and effectiveness.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Giles Elgood)