Hungary buys Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, first in EU, minister says

By Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary has signed a deal to buy Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, the first European Union country to do so, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a briefing during talks in Moscow on Friday.

In a live video posted on his Facebook page, Szijjarto told a joint briefing with Russia's health minister that the vaccines would arrive in three tranches, and that details about the size of the shipments would be released later.

The agreement comes days after Hungary's drug regulator gave approval for use of Britain's AstraZeneca and Russia's Sputnik V vaccines against the coronavirus, as Budapest strives to lift coronavirus lockdown measures to boost the economy. The EU's medicines regulator has yet to approve the Russian or AstraZeneca vaccine.

"I am very happy to announce that we have signed an agreement today under which Hungary can purchase a large quantity of Russia's vaccine in three tranches," Szijjarto said.

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He said this could allow Hungary to lift restrictions to curb the pandemic sooner. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to decide on the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and OxfordUniversity on Jan. 29. Scientists have raised concern about the speed at whichMoscow has launched its vaccine, giving the regulatory go-aheadfor the shot at home and beginning mass vaccinations before fulltrials to test its safety and efficacy had been completed. Moscow has said Sputnik V is 92% effective at protectingpeople from COVID-19 based on interim results, but has not yetreleased the full dataset for the trials. Russia on Wednesday filed for registration of the Sputnik Vvaccine in the EU before an EMA review next month.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Anita Komuves; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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