BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s drug regulator has given initial approval for use of Britain’s AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines against the coronavirus, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday, confirming media reports.
Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto was travelling to Moscow for talks about the Sputnik V vaccine later on Thursday, Gergely Gulyas told a briefing.
If he secures a shipment deal with Russia, Hungary would be the first European Union member to receive the Sputnik V shot, underlining Budapest’s rush to lift coronavirus lockdown measures in order to boost the economy, even though the EU’s medicines regulator has yet to green-light the Russian vaccine.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also not approved the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University in Britain but a decision is expected on Jan. 29.
Gulyas said the Hungarian government would review current lockdown restrictions next week, but that the curbs were unlikely to be lifted until mass inoculations are carried out and the infection rate drops.
Gulyas said Russia’s supply problems with its vaccine seem to have been resolved and he hoped a “larger quantity” of the Sputnik V shot could be delivered to Hungary soon.
Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, said on Thursday Hungary has become the first country in the EU to “realize all the advantages of the Sputnik V vaccine and authorize its use.
“This decision is very important as it demonstrates that the vaccine’s safety and efficacy of over 90% are highly regarded by our partners in Hungary,” he said.
Scientists have raised concern about the speed at which Moscow has launched its vaccine, giving the regulatory go-ahead for the shot at home and launching mass vaccinations before full trials to test its safety and efficacy had been completed.
Moscow has said Sputnik V is 92% effective at protecting people from COVID-19 based on interim results, but has not yet released the full dataset for the trials.
Russia on Wednesday filed for registration of the Sputnik V vaccine in the EU ahead of an EMA review next month.
(Reporting by Anita Komuves and Krisztina Than; Additional reporting by Polina Ivanova in Moscow; Editing by Mark Heinrich)