Hungary has become the first EU country to approve for emergency use China's CanSino Biologics coronavirus vaccine.
The move came as new infections are spiking in the Central European country even though vaccine import and usage rates already are among the highest in the European Union.
Hungary's National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYEI) also gave emergency approval to CoviShield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca jab, Surgeon General Cecilia Muller told a news briefing on March 22.
"We are in a race against time," Muller said. "We will search the four corners of the world for as many doses of proper, efficient, and safe vaccines as possible."
She said both shots are “viral vector” vaccines, made with a "cold," harmless virus.
If both jabs are also approved for mass use by the National Health Center, Hungary, which has already been using Chinese and Russian vaccines as well as Western ones, will have seven sources to procure vaccines from. No further details about the deal were immediately available.
Hospitalization rates are at record levels in Hungary, prompting some medical facilities to call in untrained volunteers to help them cope with an overwhelming influx of patients.
The surge in infections poses a big challenge for right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who pledged to ease tough lockdown measures once the inoculation rate reached 2.5 million people, or 25 percent of Hungary's population.
Muller said that 16 percent of the population, or 1.59 million people, had already had their first shot of a vaccine, but added that the current surge in infection was in an "extraordinarily dynamic phase."