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Hungary fast-tracks Russia's COVID vaccine

January 21, 2021

Hungary has become the first EU country to grant emergency approval of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. Germany's Angela Merkel has offered Russia support, but only if EU regulators give the green light.

A medical worker holds a vial containing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine
A medical worker holds a vial containing the Russian Sputnik V vaccineImage: Sergei Bobylev/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Hungary's medicines agency granted initial approval to the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine on Thursday.

The emergency authorization is initially valid for six months, but could be extended for another six months,  the Hungarian news portal portfolio.hu reported. The vaccine would still need to be approved by a second agency before it could be distributed, state broadcaster MTV reported.

Russian officials said the country could start sending doses of the vaccine in February.

Hungary approved the vaccine independently of the European Union, potentially setting up a clash with Brussels.

The jab has not yet been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). although Russia applied to register the vaccine on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has complained that Hungary was not receiving enough vaccine doses through the EU.

Germany offers support

On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Russia support with its vaccine — but only if it is approved by EU regulators.

Merkel said Germany's Paul Ehrlich research institute could help guide Russia through the EU approval process.

If EMA grants its approval, then Germany and Russia could discuss joint production and use of the vaccine.

Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia's state investment fund RDIF which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad, said talks were already underway with Germany about possible production links.

What do we know about Sputnik V?

Russian authorities registered Sputnik V in August last year, making it the first COVID-19 vaccine to be certified worldwide.

The vaccine's speedy approval was highly controversial.

Scientists have raised concerns about the jab being approved before important Phase III trials to test the vaccine's efficacy and safety had been concluded.

Russia has said the Sputnik V vaccine is 91.4% effective at protecting people from contracting COVID-19 — although a full data set on its vaccine trials has not yet been released.

Russia rolls out Sputnik vaccine

The Phase III trial data is expected to be published next week in the international medical journal, The Lancet, Dmitriev said on Thursday.

Over 1.5 million people have received the vaccine in Russia since the country launched its vaccination campaign in December.

The vaccine has been approved for domestic use in 11 countries, including Argentina and the United Arab Emirates.

rs/msh (dpa, AFP)