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Healthcare

UPDATE 1-Czech Republic to wait for EMA approval before using Sputnik vaccine, PM says

(Adds quote, data on infections)

PRAGUE, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Wednesday that the country would wait for European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval before potentially using the Sputnik V anti-coronavirus vaccine produced by Russia.

The comments marked a partial row-back after Babis said last week that the Czech Republic could consider using Sputnik even without EMA approval, following the path of Hungary which he visited for consultations.

The Czech Republic has been among the European Union countries worst hit by the current wave of the pandemic. It reported 10,165 new cases on Tuesday, the highest daily tally since Jan. 13, and has recorded a total 17,642 deaths since the start of the pandemic, in a total population of 10.7 million.

“We will certainly wait for the (EMA) approval,” Babis told a televised press conference on Wednesday.

Babis said the country could obtain Sputnik shots and have them ready in storage before the EMA verdict, so that it would be able to start using them immediately after any approval.

“It is a similar approach to a request to EMA to permit deliveries by Astrazeneca, which then were stored by the (EU) member states as they waited for EMA’s approval in order to gain several days, because every day matters,” he said.

The Czech health ministry has consistently said no distinction should be made between the various vaccines and that any can be used once they have EMA clearance.

EU countries have so far relied almost entirely on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine but Hungary’s drug regulator approved Sputnik V for use last month.

The Czech Republic has been among the slower EU countries to vaccinate against COVID-19, according to ourworldindata.org. It had administered 382,416 shots as of Tuesday, health ministry figures show. (Reporting by Robert Muller; editing by Jan Lopatka and Gareth Jones)

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