Hungary to receive 500,000 doses of Sinopharm's vaccine next week

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary expects to receive 500,000 doses of the Chinese firm Sinopharm’s coronavirus vaccine next week and plans to start administering it soon, becoming the first EU country to use it, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said on Thursday.

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Hungary also on Thursday became the first European Union member to administer Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, after its regulator granted the shot emergency use approval rather than waiting for a green light from the EU’s European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Hungary wants to speed up its inoculation programme despite delays in Western vaccine deliveries, in order to be able to lift lockdown measures and kickstart the economy. It has also granted approval to Sinopharm’s vaccine.

The first 2,800 doses of Sputnik V are being given to those who have registered for inoculations and do not have a chronic disease, the surgeon general has said.

Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, told a briefing that Hungary had decided to issue a certificate of immunity from COVID-19 for those who have been inoculated, those who have recovered from the virus and those who can show the presence of antibodies in a blood test.

Gulyas said the government has not yet decided what exemptions these certificates would entitle the holder to.

Hungary, which has around 10 million people, is scheduled to receive 200,000 doses of Sputnik V and half a million doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine this month.

Around 300,000 Hungarians - healthcare workers and the most vulnerable among the elderly - have so far received at least one shot of a Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

Hungary has also started using the AstraZeneca vaccine this week to inoculate people aged between 18 and 60 who are suffering from chronic diseases.

As of Thursday, Hungary had reported 381,875 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, with 13,444 deaths.

Reporting by Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves; Editing by Alison Williams and Kevin Liffey