Hungary’s Orban: EU should approve vaccines shown to be effective elsewhere

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he would propose to European Union leaders that the bloc authorise all vaccines that have been shown to be safe and effective elsewhere and use them to accelerate vaccinations across the EU.

Hungary is the only EU country to have approved and deployed Russian and Chinese vaccines in large quantities before the European Medicines Agency has examined or approved them. This has enabled it to reach one of the EU’s highest inoculation rates.

Orban, who was attending an EU social summit in Lisbon, said in a Facebook video that any social issue began with vaccines, the only way to ensure people could safely return to work.

“We have lessons to share as Hungary has reopened almost completely,” Orban said. “Hungarians have their freedom back, while in many European countries that is not the case.”

Hungary has vaccinated 4.2 million of its 10 million citizens as of Friday, including 2.4 million with both doses of five various vaccines it has used.

But with 28,403 fatalities, it remains the world leader in deaths per capita here in the course of the pandemic, due mostly to a particularly lethal third wave. It also has the second highest rate of deaths from confirmed cases in the EU, after Bulgaria.

Hungary deployed the Russian and Chinese shots after Orban’s government decreed that any vaccine used widely elsewhere could also be used in Hungary.

It has 5 million doses of a vaccine from China’s Sinopharm on order and 2 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V. Its largest supplier is Pfizer, from which it has agreed to buy more than 10 million doses.

Orban said the EU should follow a similar course: “I will propose that in all of Europe we accept all vaccines that prove useful and safe, and accelerate vaccinations.”

The European Medicines Agency did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

It has approved vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen for use in the bloc, and has four further products under rolling review, including Sputnik V but neither of the two vaccines developed by China’s Sinopharm.

Photo: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. EPA-EFE/ABIR SULTAN / POOL