After Hungary became the first European country to receive a sample of the Russian vaccine, the EU was quick to warn against its use. According to the Commission, it “raises safety concerns and could damage trust in potential vaccines.” The decision to conduct trials of and possibly produce the vaccine further stirred tension between Orbán and the EU.
For months, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has repeatedly been saying that only a vaccine could provide a solution to the pandemic. On Thursday, a sample of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine arrived in Hungary and scientists have already begun examining it.
Meanwhile, many started to wonder why Hungary is the first European country to receive the Russian vaccine. Some critics think this is clearly a political message, while Europe is waiting for the American vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
Gov’t: Origin of vaccine not political issue
Orbán has many times mentioned that Hungarian researchers have joined the EU vaccine development program, and said that it is possible that by spring two or three types of vaccines will be available in Hungary as the government is in talks with China, Russia, and Israel on buying vaccines.
“This should not be made into a political issue,” the Prime minister said, adding that “vaccinations will be voluntary and people can decide which vaccine “to trust.”
Meanwhile, Hungarian officials seem confident about the effectiveness of the Russian vaccines, also stating that the government is simply working to obtain vaccines “from as many sources as possible.”
EU warns Hungary of Russian vaccine
Hungary’s plans to import and possibly use Russia’s touted Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine raises safety concerns and could damage trust in potential vaccines, the European Commission said on Thursday, according to Reuters’ report.
“The question arises whether a member state would want to administer a vaccine to its citizens that has not been reviewed by [European Medicines Agency] EMA,” a spokesman for the Commission emphasized.
Under EU rules, Sputnik V must be authorized by the European Medicines Agency before it can be marketed in any state of the 27-nation bloc, according to EMA.
But a legal loophole might allow the Orbán government the temporary import and distribution of unauthorized vaccines for emergency use in the EU.
The Commission spokesman, however, warned: “if our citizens start questioning the safety of a vaccine, should it not have gone through rigorous scientific assessment to prove its safety and efficacy, it will be much harder to vaccinate a sufficient proportion of the population.”
Hungarians already skeptical of Covid vaccines, Russian and Chinese being most rejected
This could be indeed a warning sign for the Orbán government, especially as a recent survey showed that Hungarians are already among the most skeptical about a possible coronavirus vaccine and almost 50 percent of them would definitely not inject themselves with it.
The survey, conducted by Opinio, also revealed that Hungarians are most likely to trust a vaccine made in Hungary or the U.S. while only 7 percent of the respondents would accept a Russian one, with a vaccine manufactured by the Chinese being the most rejected, at the bottom of the list with 4 percent.
Featured photo by MTI/EPA/Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation