Slovakia has received 2 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, which would be enough for a complete vaccination for less than a fifth of the country’s population. The vaccines were delivered by a Slovak army plane to Košice on Monday.
The vaccine will be used based on an exemption granted by the Minister of Health Marek Krajčí, making Slovakia the second EU country after Hungary to approve the use of the vaccine. According toKrajčí, this step will make it possible to speed up vaccination by 40 percent, which has been hampered by a lack of vaccines.
The Russian direct investment fund, which participates in the production of Sputnik V, has meanwhile issued a statement saying that Slovakia has become the second country of the European Union after Hungary and the 39th country in the world to give consent to the use of its vaccine.
Matovič pushed for the purchase of Sputnik V in February, although the smallest government party For the People blocked the granting of such a step.
Its boss and Deputy Prime Minister Veronika Remišová spoke only in favor of purchasing vaccines approved in the EU.
“I am completely open to any vaccine that will be used in Slovakia. I don’t have the slightest problem getting vaccinated with Sputnik. I haven’t decided yet,” said Matovič when asked if he would choose a Russian vaccine himself.
He added that despite the purchase of Sputnik V, a key part of the COVID-19 vaccination will take place with vaccines purchased by the European Commission for EU countries.
Health Minister Krajčí stated that vaccination with Sputnik V will start in two weeks at the earliest because the vaccine will be checked first. During vaccination, the applicant will receive two doses successively. The vaccinated will have to sign that he has been informed that Sputnik V is not registered in the EU.
According to Matovič, two doses of Sputnik V cost $19.95 (approximately €16.60) and are thus cheaper than vaccines by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna.
He also said that another plane had flown to Russia in the meantime, followed by another flight to bring a total of 200,000 doses of vaccine from Russia. Another 400,000 batches should follow in March, and the rest of the order by the end of June this year.
The prime minister’s participation in the delivery of the Russian vaccine was criticized by the head of Slovak diplomacy, Ivan Korčok, who was nominated to the government by the Freedom and Solidarity party. According to Korčok, it is not appropriate to pay political attention to an unregistered vaccine.
The prime minister of Slovakia used to advocate the purchase of Sputnik V due to the bad epidemic situation in the country and the fact that, according to a public opinion poll, 300,000 more people would be vaccinated from Slovakia’s 5 million people if a Russian vaccine was used.
Slovakia, like other EU member states, is facing a shortage of vaccines. So far, over 305,000 people have been vaccinated with at least the first dose.
Czechia is also interested in deliveries of Sputnik V. After an agreement with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, President Zeman asked the head of the Kremlin about it and later confirmed that the Russian vaccine could arrive in the Czech Republic shortly.
Title image: Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic, right, and Health Minister Marek Krajci at Kosice Airport, Slovakia, Monday March 1, 2021, as Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine arrives. (Frantisek Ivan/TASR via AP)