Hungary reaches deal to buy China's Sinopharm vaccine, PM aide says
Sinopharm's coronavirus vaccines being displayed at the China Service Fair, September 6, 2020. /CFP

Sinopharm's coronavirus vaccines being displayed at the China Service Fair, September 6, 2020. /CFP

Hungary's government said on Thursday it has reached a deal with China's Sinopharm to buy its coronavirus vaccine, a move making Hungary the first European Union (EU) country to accept a Chinese vaccine. 

Under the EU rules, it would have to give an ultra-fast emergency use approval, rather than waiting for the European drug regulator to give the go-ahead for the Chinese vaccine.

Britain took a similar approach in December before it exited the bloc. It approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on December 2, jumping ahead of the rest of the world in the race to begin a mass inoculation program.

Hungary's nationalist government has sharply criticized the EU for what it said were way too slow vaccine purchases and deliveries that now threatened an economic rebound.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in a Facebook post on Thursday that due to the "scandalously" slow vaccine procurement of the European Commission, a fast rollout of vaccines could not happen early this year.

"If we look beyond the EU's borders, we can see that in the U.S., in Britain, and Israel, people are vaccinated at warp speed," Szijjarto said.

The government also passed a decree on Thursday allowing it to start procurement outside the EU's centralized scheme.

Szijjarto's spokesman said the approval process for the vaccine developed by Sinopharm's Beijing-based affiliate, Beijing Institute of Biological Products (BIBP), was already "underway".

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff Gergely Gulyas told a briefing on Thursday that vaccine shipments under the EU's program were arriving too slowly, with weekly shipments of less than 100,000 doses, and Hungary would continue talks with Russia and China about additional vaccine purchases.

"We have practically agreed with Sinopharm," Gulyas said. "The first shipment could include up to one million doses."

The timing of the Chinese shipment depends on how fast Hungarian health authorities authorize the use of Sinopharm's vaccine, which has been used to immunize some 20 million people, he added.

Gulyas said the second wave of the pandemic has peaked in Hungary, and new infections have dropped, but restrictions cannot be eased yet.


China approved the shot developed by Sinopharm's BIBP in late December, its first COVID-19 vaccine for general public use.

According to the company, interim results of Phase III clinical trials show the vaccine is 79.34 percent effective in preventing the disease.

"All patients produced high-tier antibodies and the neutralizing antibody-positive conversion rate was 99.52 percent," the company said in a statement.

The vaccine, along with another candidate developed by a Wuhan-based subsidiary of Sinopharm, is included in China's emergency use program launched in July, which targets limited groups of people facing a high risk of virus exposure.

Source(s): Reuters

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