BUDAPEST -- Hungary has become the first EU member to give initial approval to the Chinese-made Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine, with Prime Minister Viktor Orban saying he would personally choose to be inoculated with the jab because he trusts it the most.
"Today the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition gave its approval for the Sinopharm vaccine," Chief Medical Officer Cecilia Muller announced on January 29, a day after a government decree allowing any vaccine that had been administered to at least 1 million people anywhere in the world to be used in Hungary.
EU-member Hungary also broke ranks with the bloc last week by issuing a provisional license to Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and ordering doses to treat 1 million people over the next three months.
“So after Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and the Russian Sputnik vaccine, we can also count on the Sinopharm shot," Muller told a briefing.
Earlier on January 29, Orban told state media a deal to purchase the Chinese vaccine could be concluded "today or tomorrow” and that the first shipment to Hungary could comprise up to 1 million doses.
"The Chinese have known this virus for the longest, and I'll presume that they probably know the most about it. So I'll wait my turn, and if I can choose, I'll ask for the Chinese vaccine," the prime minister said.
Orban, who has been critical of the EU’s vaccine procurement program, said that Serbia provided the “most inspiring example.” The neighboring, non-EU country this month became the first European country to start a mass inoculation program with Sinopharm’s vaccine.
More than 360,000 coronavirus infections have been reported in Hungary and over 12,000 people have died of COVID-19. More than 3,600 people are still in hospital, straining the country’s health-care system.
The government on January 28 extended a state of emergency for 90 days and partial lockdown measures until March 1. The measures include a night curfew, a ban on gatherings, mandatory mask-wearing in public, and online tuition for high schools and universities.