“Czech Republic Will Wait for EU Approval of Sputnik Vaccine,” Says Babiš

czech republic sputnik vaccine

The Czech Republic will wait until the EU’s European Medicines Agency (EMA) approves Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V before using it, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said on Wednesday.

Babiš was speaking after appointing his fourth health minister of the pandemic. President Milos Zeman had sought to have the previous minister removed over his opposition to using Sputnik without EMA approval.

“I want to stress (the ministerial change) is not about Sputnik,” Babiš said. “We will wait for the decision of the EMA.”

Jan Blatny was replaced by Petr Arenberger, the director of Prague’s University Hospital Vinohrady, who was sworn in by President Milos Zeman. The move opens the way for the possible use of Russian and Chinese vaccines, which have not been approved by the European Union’s drug regulator.

Babiš repeatedly criticized Blatny over his handling of the pandemic, including imposing strict conditions for the use of experimental drugs to treat COVID-19 patients.

Blatny was also under fire from Zeman, an ally of Babis who is known for his pro-Russian and pro-Chinese views.

Zeman said he approached his Russian, Chinese and Israeli counterparts with a request for help with the vaccines and received a positive response from all of them. Israel donated 5,000 Moderna vaccines to the Czech Republic in February.

“Unfortunately, your predecessor has blocked the process,” Zeman told Arenberger at a ceremony, blaming Blatny for those who have died. Blatny dismissed such criticism. He said he allowed the use of only approved vaccines to assure people “they are safe, tested and really work. And that’s the same with the drugs against COVID-19.”

“My decisions were always based on scientific data and analysis,” Blatny said.

Babiš previously said Sputnik V might be an option for the country due to a slow rollout of the approved vaccines from the EU.

Arenberger said his priority would be to acquire registered vaccines. He said there’s an option to conduct “clinical trials” with Sputnik V in the country, but did not immediately give further details.

The contentious Russian vaccine caused the government of Prime Minister Igor Matovic in neighboring Slovakia to collapse after he orchestrated a secret deal to buy 2 million Sputnik V vaccines – despite disagreements from his coalition partners.

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