PRAGUE (Reuters) – Slovakia has sold most Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines back to the country of origin, the Slovak Health Ministry said on Friday, as public interest is low after months of government hesitation over using the product that lacks European regulatory approval.
Slovakia shipped back 160,000 out of 200,000 doses imported in March, at $9.95 per dose, the same price as the original purchase, a ministry spokeswoman said.
Slovakia’s adventure with Sputnik was a political fiasco for then-Prime Minister Igor Matovic, who bought the shots without telling his coalition partners and over their opposition.
He was forced to resign in a political crisis, though he returned to a reshuffled cabinet as finance minister.
Slovakia’s drug agency SUKL refused to give a recommendation for using Sputnik V, citing insufficient data from the producer.
The government eventually allowed usage of Sputnik V last month for those who prefer it to other, EU-registered vaccines, but public interest was far below the available amount.
The Health Ministry said on Friday 10,500 Slovaks had received their first dose of the vaccine and 8,000 more were on a waiting list for the two-dose product.
The government closed registrations on June 30, and said last week it planned to sell or donate the vaccines, which are nearing expiration dates.
Matovic had originally planned to buy 2 million doses of the vaccines, at a time when western-made vaccines were slow to arrive in the country badly hit by the pandemic in the winter.
Slovakia is only the second EU country after Hungary to use the Russian vaccine.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Richard Chang)