Slovakia has reportedly turned to neighbor Hungary for assistance examining shipments of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine as a dispute widens over the reliability and consistency of 200,000 doses supplied to Bratislava last month.
Slovak Finance Minister Igor Matovic announced the Hungarian regulator's role after a meeting with Hungary's foreign minister in Budapest on April 9.
Hungary is the only EU member state that has already begun mass vaccinations with Sputnik V against COVID-19 as the European drug regulator inspects its efficacy and safety, as well as ethical concerns about the Russian clinical testing that went into it.
On April 8, Russia demanded that Bratislava return the Sputnik V doses after the Slovak drug regulator said the doses it received differ from those being reviewed by the European Union’s drug overseer. It complained of violations of the procurement contract.
A number of EU member states are considering ordering Sputnik V but have said they are awaiting a green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been a vocal critic of European institutions' pandemic responses, and his country has imported hundreds of thousands of doses of Sputnik V.
The Slovak State Institute for Drug Control said on April 7 that there were lingering questions about the efficacy and risks of the Russian vaccine, due mainly to inadequate data from the producer, and that was preventing doses from being rolled out across the country.
The next day, the institute also said the Sputnik V doses it was examining were not the same as those being reviewed by the EMA, or apparently those that were reviewed in the British medical journal The Lancet.
Matovic lost the Slovak prime minister's post earlier this month in part over a scandal involving the decision to procure Sputnik V.
New Prime Minister Eduard Heger said on April 9 that the country needs Sputnik V in order to save Slovak lives.
The dispute has been further complicated by unconfirmed reports that Russian officials were accusing their Slovak counterparts of entrusting some of the local testing to unauthorized laboratories.
Russian developers have insisted European regulators will be satisfied by the safety and efficacy of Sputnik V, which was raced into authorization by Russian authorities and is already being used in mass vaccinations there and in numerous other places.
A lead scientist on Sputnik's development, Aleksandr Gintzburg, was quoted by Interfax on April 9 as saying that while its effectiveness "declines" against the South African variant of the coronavirus, it is still more effective than other vaccines.