Slovakia offers 160,000 doses of Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine

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PRAGUE, June 23 (Reuters) - Slovakia plans to sell or donate 160,000 doses of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine to other countries, a government website showed on Wednesday, offering up much of the first batch it had available after months of wrangling and a political crisis.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic resigned in March amid uproar over his surprise decision to buy 2 million shots without consulting his coalition partners, who opposed using the vaccine before it had European Union approval.

In June, the country began administering the shot to those who wanted it following months of delay. read more

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But the government said it would not order more shots beyond the initial batch of 200,000 doses it had received until Sputnik V won EU approval.

According to an official website displaying the government's work agenda for Wednesday, only 14,214 people have registered to get inoculated with the vaccine, of which 8,004 have already got the shot.

"(Given the numbers) it is important to provide the possibility to use the vaccines to third countries, which show interest in the vaccine," the government document said.

Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia and Argentina showed interest in the vaccine, according to the material.

Slovakia is only the second EU country after Hungary to use the Russian vaccine. Its move was welcomed by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad, although the fund later criticised Slovakia after a Slovak watchdog raised doubts about the vaccine.

Slovakia has administered 3.37 million shots in total and 1.40 million people have been fully vaccinated in the country of 5.5 million.

The Sputnik V vaccine has received a less than ringing endorsement from Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky, who said when announcing the government decision to use the shot that he would not take it himself.

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Reporting by Robert Muller, Editing by William Maclean

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