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Russian Vaccine Gets Second EU Buyer as Slovakia Seals Order

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 3/2/2021 Andrea Dudik
a man wearing a suit and tie: Slovakian premier Igor Matovic arrives for a European Union Council in Brussels on July 17, 2020, as the leaders of the European Union hold their first face-to-face summit over a post-virus economic rescue plan. © Photographer: JOHN THYS/AFP Slovakian premier Igor Matovic arrives for a European Union Council in Brussels on July 17, 2020, as the leaders of the European Union hold their first face-to-face summit over a post-virus economic rescue plan.

(Bloomberg) -- Slovakia will get 2 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia in a move the European Union member’s leader hailed as life-saving for its citizens.

Prime Minister Igor Matovic said his health minister would authorize the use of the shots, skirting the usual approval from the Slovak drug regulator. The virus “doesn’t know geopolitics,” he added.

Matovic’s administration has struggled to bring the pandemic under control and has seen his popularity slump just a year after he won power in elections. The country received the first batch of Russian vaccines on Monday and shipments will continue through June, he told reporters on Monday in Kosice, eastern Slovakia.

Slovakia is currently the world’s leader in coronavirus deaths per capita over a seven-day period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The nation recorded 125.3 deaths per million citizens in the period, followed by the neighboring Czech Republic.

Not all shared the prime minister’s enthusiasm.

Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok the purchase of Sputnik V before the EU regulator could make its assessment. Former Premier Mikulas Dzurinda wrote in the Sme newspaper that Matovic had thrown the country’s reputation out the window, harming Slovakia and the EU.

Lawmaker Tomas Valasek said on Facebook he was quitting the ruling coalition given the secrecy of the purchase, which he said amounted to “spitting at our European partners” by bypassing the bloc’s approval process.

Slovakia is now the second EU country after Hungary in granting emergency approval of the Russian vaccine after the bloc’s campaign to inoculate its 450 million citizens fell far behind those of the U.S. and U.K. Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive officer of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, said in a statement that other countries in the region are “also showing strong interest” in the shots.

Still, Hungary’s government said it was limiting the use of Sputnik V to help preserve trust in vaccinations. In Russia doubt is rising, with almost two thirds of people saying they won’t receive it, according to an opinion poll by the independent Levada Center.

Matovic said he hasn’t yet decided which shot he will get himself, saying he is open to all available options.

(Updates with lawmaker’s reaction from fifth paragraph.)

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