The impact of the pandemic is grave for the countries of the Visegrád Group, who have chosen not to follow the vaccine procurement plan of the European Union. Like Hungary, they have instead begun turning to China and Russia for vaccines. Slovakia has ordered two million doses of Sputnik V, and the Polish government has been discussing vaccine procurement with China.
Cases Call for New V4 Vaccine Procurement Plan
Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Czechia have all faced increasing rates of confirmed Covid cases since January.
Czechia far surpasses all three countries, however, its 7 day rolling average climbing close to 1,200 cases per million people.
In terms of deaths, the cases of Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are all worrying. In proportion to its population, more people have died from the virus in Hungary than in the United States. The coronavirus has taken the lives of at least 15, 476 Hungarians.
Czech Republic Needs as Many Doses as Possible
At a two-week average of 100 thousand Covid cases, the coronavirus is recorded to be spreading faster in the Czech Republic than anywhere else in the world.
For this reason, the country needs as many vaccines as it can get.
Czech president Miloš Zeman’s office announced on Wednesday that the Czech Republic is the second EU member state to order vaccines from China. The number of doses is currently unknown.
The Czech government has also struck a deal with the Gamaleya Institute for the procurement of the Sputnik V vaccine.
These two orders will be added to the 100 thousand doses of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines EU members states have agreed to provide the country with.
Poland Changes its Mind on Unauthorized Vaccines
Meanwhile, Polish president Andrzej Duda has also been in talks with Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping about purchasing the Sinopharm vaccine.
The talks come after Poland’s vaccine procurement has slowed down due to delays in AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine shipments.
Ironically, the Polish government announced a few days ago that anyone travelling to Poland will need to undergo a 14-day quarantine if the vaccine they have been inoculated with has not been authorized by the European Medicines Agency.
The change in policy could also be attributed to Poland’s reintroduction of pandemic restrictions after a sudden increase in confirmed Covid cases.
Slovakia Turns to Russia Out of Necessity?
Slovakia has turned to Russia for help, becoming the second EU member state to authorize the Sputnik V vaccine. They have ordered two million doses of the vaccine, of which they have already imported 200 thousand.
According to the Slovakian health minister Marek Krajčí, the country needed to acquire more vaccines, despite them not being approved by the EMA, since “nobody can find a better solution in this situation. It is thanks to Sputnik V that our rate of vaccination could grow by 40 percent within the near future.”
President of Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová said that the procurement of the Russian vaccine was done out of necessity. She said that she will not attempt to popularize a vaccine which has not passed the tests of the European Union, but she will respect the wishes of the people who are willing to be vaccinated with Sputnik V.
Thus, all countries within the Visegrád Group have struck deals with vaccine producers which have not been authorized by the European Union.
Hungary Is No Longer an Outlier
Tensions have risen very quickly in the EU around the issues of vaccine procurement. For a while Hungary appeared to be an outlier, being the only country to authorize both Russian and Chinese vaccines.
Now countries such as Denmark, Austria, and those of the Visegrád Group have not only joined Hungary in developing vaccine procurement plans outside of Europe, but have also confronted the European Commission.
According to Politico, the Commission pleaded for understanding on Tuesday but did not offer any kind of solution to the union’s problem.
EMA Begins Russian Vaccine Review
Despite the Russian vaccine’s almost notorious background, the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) has begun a rolling review of Sputnik V.
According to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RFPI), the EMA is currently checking if the vaccine meets the standards of the EU’s efficacy, safety, and quality standards.
Kirill Dmitrijev, CEO of the fund, said that if the vaccine is authorized, vaccine dosages adequate for 50 million people could be shipped to the union starting in June.
The European Commission will likely face increased pressure now that more of the EU’s member states are getting frustrated with procurement issues.
Russian and Chinese vaccines are now also more likely to have greater influence in the development of vaccine certificates recognized by the union, since they are being authorized by more and more countries in the Schengen Area.
Feautred photo illustration by Zoltán Fischer/PM’s Press Office