Hungarian regulators approve AstraZeneca, Sputnik V vaccines

Hungary moves to secure doses of UK and Russian-made vaccines despite lack of green light from EU’s medicines regulator.

Hungary could become the first European Union member to receive the Sputnik V shot [File: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters]

Hungary’s drug regulator has given initial approval for use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff says, confirming media reports.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto was travelling to Moscow for talks about the Sputnik V vaccine later on Thursday, Gergely Gulyas told a briefing on Thursday.

If he secures a shipment deal with Russia, Hungary would be the first European Union member to receive the Sputnik V shot, underlining Budapest’s rush to lift coronavirus lockdown measures in order to boost the economy, even though the EU’s medicines regulator has yet to green-light the Russian vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also not approved the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University in the United Kingdom but a decision is expected on January 29.

Gulyas said the Hungarian government would review current lockdown restrictions next week, but that the curbs were unlikely to be lifted until mass inoculations are carried out and the infection rate drops.

Gulyas said Russia’s supply problems with its vaccine seem to have been resolved and he hoped a “larger quantity” of the Sputnik V shot could be delivered to Hungary soon.

Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is marketing Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine abroad, on Thursday said Hungary has become the first country in the EU to “realise all the advantages of the Sputnik V vaccine and authorise its use”.

“This decision is very important as it demonstrates that the vaccine’s safety and efficacy of over 90 per cent are highly regarded by our partners in Hungary,” he said, adding that Russia would start supplying Hungary with Sputnik V shortly.

Scientists have raised concerns about the speed at which Moscow launched its vaccine, giving the regulatory go-ahead for the shot at home and launching mass vaccinations before full trials to test its safety and efficacy had been completed.

Moscow has said Sputnik V is 92 percent effective at protecting people from COVID-19, based on interim results, but has not yet released the full dataset for the trials.

Russia on Wednesday filed for registration of the Sputnik V vaccine in the EU ahead of an EMA review next month.

Source: Reuters