As political tensions and international feuds over COVID-19 vaccine supplies intensify, Russia’s Sputnik V is suddenly being brought up and used further west than initially expected. This, however, will not be the case in Malta, local health authorities have now confirmed.
Following a breaking of European Union ranks earlier last month, Hungary hailed the arrival of 40,000 doses of the Russian vaccine two days ago. The first of its kind in a European Union member, the move was just the first in a series of deliveries which will eventually see two million doses being flown to Hungary. And while all of this was happening, a study by independent experts was published deeming Moscow’s vaccine 91.6% effective.
“Brussels’ centralised vaccine procurement has failed,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Facebook following renewed friction between the European Union and AstraZeneca. “We were the first in the EU, but probably not the last.” And it seems like he was onto something after all.
Populist Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis announced he would travel to Budapest on Friday to consult with Orban about Sputnik, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “all vaccines” are welcome as long as they have been approved by the European Medicines Agency. Spain echoed this, saying it is “open” to using the jab so long as it gets approval by European regulators.
Last Friday, Budapest approved another vaccine from the East, this time the Chinese-made Sinopharm. Another first for EU countries, Budapest went on to say it had actually ordered five million doses of the jab.
Back in Malta, however, health authorities have now confirmed with this newsroom that they will not be considering the Russian vaccine for use on the island.
“No, Malta is not considering procuring,” a Health Ministry spokesperson told Lovin Malta when questioned about the Russian vaccine.
Of course, this shouldn’t come as any particular surprise when one thinks about it; just over 24 hours ago, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced in Parliament that the country will eventually be getting “enough vaccines to fully vaccinate Malta and Gozo twice” (that’s four doses per person, twice as much as is necessary).
“Yesterday, I was speaking to the regional director of WHO Hans Kluge, to agree from now to give our excess vaccines to countries who won’t even get their first dose by the end of the year,” Fearne continued on Tuesday evening. “We can donate them or sell them, while ensuring we have enough stock in case we need a third booster dose.”
Meanwhile, the first doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine should be landing in Malta by next week, Fearne added, going on to say that these will only be used on people aged between 18 and 55.
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Cover Photo Inset: Sergei Bobylev/TASS/dpa/picture alliance