Croatia is discussing with Moscow the possibility of importing Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine and the government has asked its drugs regulator to consider approving the shot without waiting for the European Union, Health Minister Vili Beros said.
EU countries have so far lagged far behind the United States and former EU member Britain in distributing vaccines against the coronavirus pandemic, creating political pressure on governments to speed up a lifesaving programme.
Croatia’s neighbour Hungary, often at odds with EU headquarters in Brussels, has been the only member country so far to start using Russian and Chinese vaccines without waiting for approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
In an interview with state radio, Beros said he had discussed buying Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine with the Russian ambassador in Zagreb. Russia is planning to seek EMA approval for the vaccine but Croatia would not necessarily wait, he said.
“We are thinking about securing that vaccine earlier for us. Now it is up to (our) experts to acquire information on the efficiency and safety of the vaccine and on necessary regulatory requirements,” Beros said.
“We already required the Croatian drugs agency to do it and we expect their response within days. Each government must take care of the health of its citizens. It is not illegitimate to seek solutions also outside the European Union, especially if there is a delay in deliveries within the EU framework.”
Croatia, along with Slovenia, are former Yugoslav republics now in the EU. Nearby Serbia, which has close relations with Russia, was sharing some of its Sputnik V supplies with neighbouring fellow ex-members of old Yugoslavia.
Serbia prepared to send later on Wednesday 2,000 Sputnik V doses to tiny Montenegro to help it start inoculations. Montenegro has so far reported 69,770 cases of COVID-19 infections and 910 deaths among its 620,000 people.
Serbia has already donated 4,680 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech , COVID-19 vaccine to North Macedonia, which started its own vaccination campaign on Wednesday.
Main Photo: Boxes with the Sputnik V vaccines . EPA-EFE/RAYNER PEÑA