Ukraine PM says first COVID-19 vaccines expected in Feb

KYIV (Reuters) -The first doses of a vaccine against COVID-19 may arrive in Ukraine in February, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said on Friday, adding the government was in talks with several suppliers.

FILE PHOTO: Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmygal gives a joint statement with European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis after they signed a macro-financial assistance agreement at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 23, 2020. Francisco Seco/Pool via REUTERS

Separately, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said Ukraine wanted to resume production of its own vaccine candidate and a clinical trial was being prepared, without giving details.

“The first vaccines are expected in February and for this the government is holding talks... directly with the vaccine producers and with the governments of the countries where these vaccines will be produced or have already been contracted,” Shmygal told parliament.

He also said the government hoped to receive in March the first batch of eight million doses of vaccines under the global COVAX Facility, which has been set up to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries.

Ukraine has yet to give official approval to any vaccine.

The daily coronavirus infection tally began rising in September and has been consistently high ever since, spurring the government to impose several national lockdowns to strengthen steps to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The government last week said it would introduce tight lockdown restrictions in January.

The measures, which include the closure of schools, cafes, restaurants, gyms and entertainment centres and a ban on mass gatherings, will be in force from Jan. 8 to 24.

The government last month introduced a lockdown at weekends, closing or restricting most businesses except essential services such as grocery shops, pharmacies, hospitals and transport. It lifted the restrictions on Dec. 2.

A total of 944,381 coronavirus cases were registered in Ukraine with 16,256 deaths as of Dec. 18.

Reporting by Natalia Zinest and Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Alison Williams, William Maclean