PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovakia is buying 2 million Sputnik V vaccines from Russia and expects half to arrive this month and next as it looks to step up vaccinations amid a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, the prime minister said on Monday.
Speaking at a televised briefing at an airport in the east of the central European country where the first batches of the vaccine arrived, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said vaccinations could be sped up about 40% with the new supply.
The country, which has the highest per-capita death rate related to COVID-19 in the past week, according to the Our World in Data website, is following Hungary in rolling out the Russian vaccine even though it lacks approval for emergency use in the European Union.
“Given COVID-19 does not have any geo-political inclination and it is not about politics, but solely about protecting health and lives, we think that it is really right to buy also the Russian vaccine, a reliable vaccine,” Matovic said.
Health Minister Marek Krajci said he would approve the vaccine’s use and the country could start using the shots for volunteers in two weeks at the earliest, after inspecting the first batches.
The vaccine should be available for all age groups, officials said. In the first shipment, 200,000 doses arrived.
The country of 5.5 million has reported more than 2,000 daily cases on average over the past week. Deaths have climbed to 7,270.
The neighbouring Czech Republic, which has the world’s highest one-week per-capita infection rate, has also looked at using Russia’s vaccine after earlier saying it would wait for approval from the EU’s EMA drugs agency, which has not been requested yet.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Sunday the country could not wait.
Reporting by Robert Muller and Jason Hovet; Editing by Alex Richardson, Philippa Fletcher and Cynthia Osterman
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