BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary will start vaccinating people suffering no chronic diseases with Russia’s Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine soon, the surgeon general said on Tuesday, becoming the first European Union country to use it.
Cecilia Muller said the first 2,800 doses of Sputnik would be given to those who have registered for inoculations, and that as Hungary was striving for “maximum safety” those who have a chronic disease will not get the shot.
“It… can be used with appropriate caution in case of certain chronic diseases,” she told a briefing.
Hungary’s drug regulator granted the shot emergency use approval rather than waiting for the EU’s European Medicines Agency (EMA) to give it the go-ahead.
Hungary has also granted approval to Chinese company Sinopharm’s vaccine.
The country of around 10 million people is scheduled to receive 600,000 doses of Sputnik and another half a million doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine this month, potentially allowing it to speed up its inoculation programme despite delays in Western vaccine deliveries.
EU countries have so far relied almost entirely on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine but Hungary’s drug regulator approved Sputnik V for use last month.
Muller said that some 291,396 Hungarians – healthcare workers and the most vulnerable among the elderly – had so far received at least one shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Hungary will also start using AstraZeneca vaccine this week to inoculate people aged between 18 and 60 who are suffering from chronic diseases.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Gareth Jones)