Slovakia could start giving Sputnik shots in June, minister says

PRAGUE, May 12 (Reuters) - Slovakia could include Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V in its inoculation programme and start administering the shots in June, Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky said on Wednesday.

The country would become the second in the European Union, after Hungary, to use the Russian vaccine which has yet to get final approval from the bloc’s EMA regulator.

Slovakia first purchased Sputnik doses in March although the surprise deal led to a rift in the government coalition and the resignation of the prime minister. It has not been used yet and Slovakia’s regulator had also raised data gap issues on the vaccine.

Slovakia’s health ministry said last week a Hungarian lab had confirmed that the first batch of Sputnik V sent to Slovakia was satisfactory.

“I expect we will also include (Sputnik) in the vaccination programme at the beginning of June,” Lengvarsky told a news briefing shown online.

Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million people, has given 1.29 million people a first dose, and just over 600,000 people both doses.

On Tuesday, the ministry said it had suspended first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the wake of the death of a 47-year-old woman that it said was likely to be connected to the shot because of a predisposition she had.

The ministry reiterated on Wednesday second doses of the shot were continuing.

Slovakia currently also uses vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise