Hungary becomes first EU nation to buy Chinese vaccine in latest snub to Brussels

Joe Sommerlad
·2-min read
Viktor Orbán's National Media and Infocommunications Authority is revoking Klubrádió's licence,  closing one of few remaining independent radio stations in the country (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Viktor Orbán's National Media and Infocommunications Authority is revoking Klubrádió's licence, closing one of few remaining independent radio stations in the country (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Hungary has taken delivery of its first shipment of a coronavirus vaccine manufactured in China, making it the first EU member state to do so.

The batch of 550,000 doses of the drug from state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm is enough to treat 275,000 people with two jabs each, according to Dr Agnes Galgoczy of the Epidemiology Department of the National Public Health Centre.

The delivery is part of Budapest’s strategy of procuring vaccines from outside the EU, following its acquisition of 2m doses of Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine last month, after prime minister Viktor Orbán lost patience with the continental trading bloc.

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A government decree streamlined Hungary’s vaccine approval process by allowing any vaccine administered to at least 1m people worldwide to be used without undergoing review by the country’s own medicines regulator, also sidestepping the European Medicines Agency in the process and attracting criticism.

Budapest ultimately expects to receive 5m doses of the Sinopharm shot, adjudged to be 80 per cent effective by the manufacturer, over the next four months.

Serbia was the first European country to strike a deal with the Chinese firm but is not part of the EU.

Speaking about his deal with Sinopharm last week, Mr Orbán said Hungary was on course to have vaccinated more people than any other European nation of an equivalent size by late May.

“If we start using the Chinese vaccine, which will happen soon, then by Easter we can vaccinate every person who has registered so far,” he told a domestic radio station, referring to the nearly 2.5 million Hungarians who have signed up to receive a Covid-19 vaccine from the country’s 10 million-strong population.

“As things stand now, that will be 6.8 million people by the end of May or beginning of June,” the prime minister continued.

“If we compare Hungary’s vaccination plan with the European situation, then Hungary can vaccinate 3.5 million more people by the end of May than a European country of the same size and population. I think this is huge."

Hungary has suffered 13,752 deaths from Covid since the pandemic began and 389,000 infections.

Additional reporting by AP

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