Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says that his country may start inoculating people with the Sputnik V vaccine next week, making it the first EU state to use the Russian-made vaccine against COVID-19.
Speaking in his weekly radio comment on February 5, Orban said that health authorities were performing the final tests on the vaccine in preparation for its use.
EU countries have been relying almost entirely on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine so far, but Hungary's health authorities gave preliminary approval to Sputnik V for use last month.
Under a deal signed in January, Russia will send 2 million vaccine doses to Hungary in the coming three months, enough to inoculate 1 million people. The first 40,000 doses were delivered last week.
So far 264,530 Hungarians -- health-care workers and the most-vulnerable elderly -- have received at least one shot from the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, Orban said.
He told state radio that those older than 60 who have registered for a vaccine would be inoculated by mid-March.
'By early April we could be close to 2 million vaccinated and if we can also use the Chinese vaccine, then the number of those vaccinated and those who have had COVID (and gained immunity) would exceed...2 million, that's good,' Orban said.
Hungary has also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines. It has also granted emergency use approval to Chinese Sinopharm's vaccine, rather than waiting for the bloc's European Medicines Agency to give the go-ahead.
Orban has said the only way Hungary can satisfy the demand for vaccination, given the 'frustratingly' slow delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, is by buying from Russia and China.
Russia registered Sputnik V in August last year, before the start of large-scale clinical trials or data, raising many questions over the vaccine's safety and efficacy.
However, peer-reviewed late-stage trial results published in The Lancet international medical journal this week showed the two-dose regimen of Sputnik V was 91.6 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19.
With reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL's Hungarian Service
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036