Ukraine bans use of Russian COVID-19 vaccines

A healthcare worker fills a syringe with a dose of Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination centre opened at the Yandex Go centre for drivers and couriers in Moscow, Russia January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine’s parliament on Friday approved a bill intended to speed up the approval of COVID-19 vaccines, which also bans the approval of vaccines made in Russia.

The government has said it expects to receive 100,000 to 200,000 doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer Inc and Germany's BioNTech 22UAy.DE under the global COVAX scheme in February.

No vaccine has yet been approved in Ukraine but authorities have repeatedly said Kyiv will not approve or use vaccines from Russia, with which Ukraine’s ties are strained.

“One political force just created some hysteria over the registration of the Russian vaccine,” Ukraine’s Health Minister Maksym Stepanov told a televised briefing.

“I can say at once: You can be hysterical for a very long time, no one will register the Russian vaccine in the country.”

Biolik, a Ukrainian pharmaceutical company backed by Viktor Medvedchuk, a prominent Russia-leaning opposition figure, said earlier this month it had applied for state approval to make Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, a sensitive move given the poor relations between Kyiv and Moscow.

The two countries have been at loggerheads since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and involvement in a conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Raju Gopalakrishnan