Hungary Becomes First EU Country To Buy Russia's Sputnik-V Vaccine.

Hungary has signed an agreement with Russia to buy the Sputnik-V anti-coronavirus vaccine, the first European Union country to do so.
Speaking at a joint briefing with Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko streamed live on his Facebook page, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on January 22 that a "large quantity" of the vaccines would arrive in three shipments. Further details will be revealed later, he added.
Hungary's medical authorities have given initial approval for the use of two vaccines -- Britain's AstraZeneca and Russia's Sputnik-V -- against the coronavirus. The authorization for Sputnik-V is valid for six months with the possibility of a six-month extension. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EU's drug regulator, has yet to green-light the vaccine for use. The EMA has also not approved the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University in Britain, but a decision on that is expected on January 29.

The only two vaccines approved by the EMA so far for use in the 27-member bloc are those made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Szijjarto's announcement came as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio that the best approach to achieve a rapid mass inoculation was to authorize the use of several vaccines since competition would force manufacturers to speed up shipments.

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Orban said Hungary wouldn't be able to lift coronavirus restrictions until a mass inoculation of the population was under way.
"We don't need explanations, we need vaccines," Orban said. Budapest is also in negotiations with China to buy its Sinopharm vaccine. As of January 21, Hungary -- with a population of just under 10 million -- says that it had administered more than 138,000 vaccines. From the start of the pandemic, Hungary has reported more than 354,000 infections and 11,713 deaths. Since November 11, all secondary schools have been closed in Hungary, as have hotels and restaurants except for takeout meals. An 8 p.m. curfew is also in place, and gatherings have been banned. Orban said that -- once healthcare workers, elderly people, and those working in defense efforts against the pandemic have been inoculated -- then a discussion can start about returning to normal conditions.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa

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