BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia on Wednesday became the second European Union country to authorize use of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, which has not yet been approved by the bloc's drug regulator.
The Slovak government asked Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky — who has expressed reservations about the Russian COVID-19 vaccine — to make it available by June 7. Slovakia has 200,000 doses of Sputnik V in stock but had not allowed its use until now.
Hungary is the only other EU nation to use Sputnik V, which has not been authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
A secret deal for Slovakia to purchase 2 million Sputnik V shots orchestrated by then-Prime Minister Igor Matovic triggered a political crisis in March that resulted in the Slovak government’s collapse.
Use of the vaccine still remains controversial.
Lengvarsky had said Tuesday that he would prefer Sputnik V to be first authorized by the EMA before it is administered in his country.
He answered “no” on Wednesday when asked whether he was ready to get a shot of Sputnik V or would recommend it to his relatives.
Lengvarsky said his ministry was working to allow people to have a free choice among the available vaccines, including Sputnik V.
Slovakia has been administering the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca jabs, and will also use Johnson & Johnson — all authorized by EMA.
Lengvarsky said Sputnik V will be administered to people aged 18 - 60 because his country doesn't have enough information from Russia to allow it for older people.
He said the Slovak state takes responsibility for possible negative side effects of the vaccine.
After the 200,000 Sputnik V shots are used up, more of the Russian vaccine will be imported to the country only after it is approved by EMA, Lengvarsky said.
The nation of 5.4 million has fully vaccinated 774,928 people. More than 1.6 million received at least one shot.
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