Politics

EU vaccines rebellion: Hungary and Czech Republic break ranks and order unapproved jabs

Hungary Foreign Minister says EU is ‘slow’

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There is growing frustrations with the slow rollout of Covid jabs across EU states with much of the blame being pinned on eurocrats. Firebrand Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban posed this weekend while receiving a dose of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine. With shortages reported across the EU, Czech leader Andrej Babis announced his country would press on using the Russian Sputnik V jab without prior authorisation from the bloc’s medicines watchdog.

And arch federalist Guy Verhofstadt continued to pile the pressure on Brussels for moving too slowly in the race to green-light more vaccines for use across the EU.

In a social media post last weekend, Mr Orban declared: “I’m vaccinated.”

His official channels uploaded a short video of him being jabbed with China’s state-backed Sinopharm vaccine.

The Chinese jab has not been approved by the EU’s Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency.

Mr Orban has been a harsh critic of Brussels, claiming eurocrats have been too slow rollout life-saving vaccines.

Hungary has broken ranks with most EU states to grant emergency authorisation to both the Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines.

In a recent radio interview, Mr Orban said: “We can talk about waiting for this, but we lose a hundred Hungarians every day we wait.

“So I’m not waiting.”

The Czech Republic issued a similar warning after requesting a batch of the Russian-made vaccine to help plug gaps in the supply of EU-procured doses.

Czech politicians have blamed the EU for its snail-paced rollout of jabs.

President Milos Zeman said: “After consulting the prime minister, I have sent a letter to Vladimir Putin asking for him a supply of the Sputnik vaccine.

“Information from the Russian embassy suggests it could arrive in the next few days.”

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Mr Zeman also suggested he would welcome supplies of the Chinese jab because “vaccines have no ideology”.

Czech PM Mr Babis said the country could start rolling out doses of the vaccines before EU permissions.

He said: “We cannot wait for the EMA, when Russia has not applied for approval.”

Mr Babis insisted the Czech drugs authority, SUKL, would be able to approve the jabs instead.

“SUKL must examine the documentation and if they approve it, the health ministry has to issue an exemption,” he said.

“And then, whoever is interested, can get inoculated.”

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Mr Verhofstadt, a supporter of a united states of Europe, also criticised eurocrats for the slow rollout of jabs.

He said EU regulators had been sluggish in approving a number of jabs, citing the recent US green-light for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

The Belgian MEP said: “US approved Johnson and Johnson vaccine. What is the EMA waiting for?

“Every day countries in deaths, economic damage, public trust and – as the AstraZeneca case shows – access to production.

“The EU has all the facilities to compete, but not the procedures.”

EU states agreed not to alter their authorisation processes for coronavirus vaccines, meaning a single jab can take months to be approved.

The European Commission, however, has since announced plans to allow fast-track approval for tweaked vaccines that combat mutant coronavirus strains.

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