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Hungary approves new Chinese vaccine, and CoviShield for emergency use

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary is the first European Union (EU) country to approve for emergency use China’s CanSino Biologics coronavirus vaccine and CoviShield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca shot, the Hungarian surgeon general said on Monday.

New infections are surging in Hungary in a third wave of the pandemic, even as vaccine import and usage rates are among the highest in the EU with the country using Chinese and Russian vaccines as well as Western ones.

If both new vaccines are also approved for mass use by the National Health Centre, Hungary will have seven sources to procure vaccines from. It was unclear when and in what quantity Hungary planned to deploy the newly authorised vaccines, or how it planned to buy them.

“We are in a race against time,” Surgeon General Cecilia Muller told a news briefing. “We will overturn the four corners of the world for as many doses of proper efficient and safe vaccines as possible.”

Hospitalisation rates are at record levels, and even as Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday said the health system would cope, some hospitals are so overwhelmed by the influx of patients that they are asking untrained volunteers to help.

The spreading third wave presents a big challenge for Orban, who said tough lockdown measures could start to ease once the vaccination figure reached 2.5 million people, or a quarter of the population.

Orban faces elections in 2022.

Reporting by Anita Komuves and Marton Dunai; Editing by Alison Williams and Ed Osmond

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