Slovaks to Use Sputnik Vaccine After Resolving Russia Dispute

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Slovakia is set to become the European Union’s second member to use the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine after ironing out a disagreement with Russia over negative reports by the country’s drug regulator.

The eastern EU nation’s medicine agency angered Russia last month by saying it wasn’t able to asses the vaccine’s risks and benefits because it lacked data from the producer. The regulator also alleged that the doses it received had different properties than the ones described in an article in The Lancet medical journal earlier this year.

Sputnik’s developers rejected the claims as “incorrect and misleading,” saying the Slovak tests were conducted by an uncertified laboratory. After Russia demanded the 200,000 shots back, Slovakia’s leaders looked to salvage the deal with tests in Hungary, the only EU state already using Sputnik.

“We have a definitive agreement signed by the Russian side to use it,” Health Minister Vladimir Lengvarsky said in a video published by the news service TASR. “After paying the proper sum, the vaccines will become our property.”

Former Prime Minister Igor Matovic agreed to buy 2 million Sputnik doses in March to speed up inoculation, but the deal triggered a political crisis when his coalition partners opposed the purchase. The turmoil, which threatened to tear apart the ruling alliance, culminated with Matovic stepping down and swapping jobs with the finance minister.

The nation of 5.5 million is lagging behind central European peers, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, in vaccination. Among 10 countries in the region, Slovaks showed the highest willingness to get vaccinated with Sputnik, according to an opinion poll released by a Bratislava-based think-tank Globsec last month.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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