Hungary could sign Chinese vaccine deal imminently – PM Orban

Hungary could sign Chinese vaccine deal imminently – PM Orban
FILE PHOTO: Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks as he arrives to attend a face-to-face EU summit amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Brussels, Belgium December 10, 2020. John Thys/Pool via REUTERS

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary could sign a deal to buy coronavirus vaccines from China by Saturday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio, adding that his government was closely monitoring the outcome of mass inoculations with a Chinese vaccine in neighbouring Serbia.

Hungary would be the first European Union country to accept a Chinese vaccine, if it is approved by Hungarian authorities.

This month, Serbia received one million doses of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first European country to start a mass inoculation programme with it.

Hungary, which last week became the first EU member to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, has also been in talks to buy the Sinopharm drug. It said the first shipment could comprise up to one million doses.

Orban said on Friday that the deal could be signed imminently, and he would choose the Chinese vaccine as he trusted it the most.

He said if Hungary could get hold of the Chinese vaccine, it could inoculate around 1.7 million people by March.

Orban’s government is under pressure to reopen the economy as soon as possible after last year’s pandemic-driven crash led to its worst recession since the global financial crisis. Hungary holds a national election next year.

On Thursday the government published a decree, accelerating the approval process for vaccines, saying emergency use approval would be given to any shot already administered to at least a million people.

The Hungarian drug regulator has not yet approved Sinopharm’s vaccine.

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