Hungary has signed an agreement with Russia to buy two million doses of the Sputnik-V anti-coronavirus vaccine, the first European Union country to purchase the Russian immunization serum.
Speaking at a joint briefing with Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko streamed live on his Facebook page, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on January 22 that a "large quantity" of the vaccines would arrive in three shipments. Further details will be revealed later, he added.
Later, ahead of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Szijjarto said that a contract for two million Sputnik-V doses has been signed -- a quantity that would allow the inoculation of 1 million people.
Szijjarto said the first batch would be enough to inoculate 300,000 people, followed by two other shipments for 500,000 people and 200,000 people, respectively. He did not say when the first delivery would arrive.
Hungary's medical authorities have given initial approval for the use of two vaccines -- Britain's AstraZeneca and Russia's Sputnik-V -- against the coronavirus.
The authorization for Sputnik-V is valid for six months with the possibility of a six-month extension. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EU's drug regulator, has yet to green-light the vaccine for use.
The EMA has also not approved the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University in Britain, but a decision on that is expected on January 29.
The only two vaccines approved by EMA so far for use in the 27-member bloc are those made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and Sijjarto appeared to voice frustration with the pace of delivery of enough doses.
As of January 21, Hungary -- with a population of just under 10 million -- says that it has administered more than 138,000 vaccines. From the start of the pandemic, Hungary has reported more than 354,000 infections and 11,713 deaths.
"Like Russia, we are encountering economic and medical challenges that stem from the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the supply of vaccines to Hungary has been very slow," Szijjarto said at the start of talks with Lavrov.
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Szijjarto's announcement came as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio that the best approach to achieve a rapid mass inoculation was to authorize the use of several vaccines since competition would force manufacturers to speed up shipments.
Orban said Hungary wouldn't be able to lift coronavirus restrictions until a mass inoculation of the population was under way.
"We don't need explanations, we need vaccines," Orban said.
Budapest is also in negotiations with China to buy its Sinopharm vaccine.
Since November 11, all secondary schools have been closed in Hungary, as have hotels and restaurants except for takeout meals. An 8 p.m. curfew is also in place, and gatherings have been banned.
Orban said that -- once healthcare workers, elderly people, and those working in defense efforts against the pandemic have been inoculated -- then a discussion can start about returning to normal conditions.