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Hungary To Test Russian Coronavirus Vaccine

Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine against the coronavirus disease not yet been evaluated by the European Medicines Agency.
Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine against the coronavirus disease not yet been evaluated by the European Medicines Agency.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto says Hungary is pressing ahead with testing on a Russian coronavirus vaccine after being the first European country to receive samples of the Sputnik-V last week.

Szijjarto said on November 23 that 10 initial doses of the drug -- hailed in August by Russian President Vladimir Putin as the world's first registered COVID-19 vaccine -- would undergo testing in Hungary for safety and effectiveness.

"Last week, 10 doses of this vaccine arrived in Hungary," Szijjarto said.

"This shipment arrived, together with the necessary documentation, for the Hungarian authorities to carry out tests which will help our scientists to decide whether this vaccine is safe, effective, recommended for the Hungarian people or not."

Last week, Szijjarto said talks were ongoing between a Hungarian drugmaker and Russian partners on possible domestic production of the vaccine.

Sputnik-V has already been administered in Russia to health-care workers and other high-risk groups, despite not having completed advanced clinical trials. It has not yet been evaluated by the European Medicines Agency, the European Union's drug regulator.

Szijjarto says EU member Hungary is also in negotiations with three Chinese vaccine makers, and had bought 2.8 million doses of a Chinese antiviral medication.

"I spoke on the phone with my Chinese counterpart, and we have confirmed that we will stay in contact and maintain our consultations. After the Chinese vaccine development reaches the point where the samples and their documentation can be sent to Hungary, the Hungarian authorities will also carry out those tests."

Budapest has also reserved 12 million doses of vaccine from manufacturers in Europe and the United States, including British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, Belgian-based Janssen, and the joint U.S.-German vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech.

The government on November 23 limited retail store visits in an effort to separate elderly shoppers and contain the coronavirus pandemic in the most vulnerable over-65 age group.

Infection numbers and daily deaths continue to set record highs, affecting the elderly, in particular, and prompting further restrictions, the government said.

According to official figures, as of November 23, 3,891 Hungarians have died of COVID-19 and 177,952 people have been infected since the start of the pandemic in the country of 10 million people.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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    RFE/RL's Hungarian Service

    RFE/RL’s Hungarian Service -- closed after the Cold War ended -- was relaunched on September 8, 2020, in response to the country’s steep decline in media freedom. It's an entirely digital service dedicated to serving the public interest by representing a diversity of views and providing reliable, unbiased reporting about the issues audiences care about most.