PRAGUE (Reuters) – Slovakia may start using Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in early May, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said on Thursday, more than two months after a batch of 200,000 doses arrived into the country but which have remained locked in storage.
The deal to import the vaccine proved controversial because it has not been approved by the EU’s drug regulator EMA. Also Slovakia has said domestic emergency authorisation was issued for a different dosage than what arrived, and the country’s drug watchdog SUKL said it had not received sufficient data to assess the product.
Moscow demanded last week that the vaccines are returned due to what it termed contract violations. But Slovakia instead asked for additional laboratory tests in Hungary, the only EU country to use Sputnik V so far.
“The process should go through in the coming weeks, (and) I assume that in early May, the vaccination could come,” Heger said in a televised press conference during a visit to Prague.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund responsible for marketing the vaccine, said Slovakia had not tested the shot in a specially certified laboratory, adding this was in violation of contract obligations and “an act of sabotage”.
Heger said a number of Slovaks only wanted to be vaccinated with the Russian product and therefore it was needed to achieve the goal of maximising vaccination cover in the population.
As of April 14, the country of 5.5 million had reported 900,575 people had received at least one dose of a vaccine and 319,349 had received both jabs.
(Reporting by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka; Editing by David Holmes)