Hungary FM Peter Szijjarto says Budapest is buying two million doses of the Russian jab in hopes of lifting lockdown restrictions earlier.
Hungary has signed an agreement to purchase two million doses of the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, the first country in the European Union to do so, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Friday during a briefing at discussions in Moscow.
With its order of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Hungary is the first EU member to break ranks and unilaterally approve the vaccine as frustrations grow in Europe over Western vaccine supply delays hampering recovery economic.
“Under our agreement, we buy enough to vaccinate a million people,” Szijjarto said in discussions with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.
“That’s two million doses in three installments. An amount to vaccinate 300,000 people in the first month, half a million people in the second month and 200,000 people in the third.
Szijjarto did not say when the first shipment of the Russian vaccine would arrive in Hungary and it was not known how much Budapest would pay for the two million vaccines in total.
The deal comes just days after Hungary’s drug regulator gave his approval for using Britain’s AstraZeneca and Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines, as Budapest pushes to lift coronavirus lockdown measures to boost its economy.
The EU medicines regulator has yet to approve the Russian vaccine or AstraZeneca. Szijjarto said Russian vaccines could allow Hungary to lift lockdown restrictions earlier.
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Hungary could not lift restrictions until it could conduct a mass vaccination. He said the best approach was to allow the use of multiple vaccines because competition would force manufacturers to expedite shipments.
“We don’t need explanations, we need vaccines,” Orban told state radio.
Right-wing conservative Orban has maintained what he calls good, pragmatic relations with Russia since coming to power in 2010. Hungary mainly depends on natural gas imported from Russia and Rosatom is building a nuclear power plant in Hungary.
Szijjarto said he would also discuss gas shipments from Russia during his talks in Moscow on Friday. Hungary has already said it is ready to start talks with Russian Gazprom over a new long-term gas supply deal.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to vote on the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford on January 29.
Russia filed for registration of the Sputnik vaccine in the EU on Wednesday ahead of an EMA review next month.
Scientists have worried about the speed at which Moscow has launched its vaccine, giving the regulatory green light for the vaccine at home and starting mass vaccinations before full trials are completed to test its safety and effectiveness.
Moscow has said Sputnik V is 92% effective in protecting people from COVID-19 based on interim results, but has yet to release the full data set for the trials.