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Hungary becomes 1st EU nation to approve Russian COVID-19 vaccine

Two ampules of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine are seen at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia. File Photo by RDIF/EPA-EFE
Two ampules of the Russian "Sputnik V" coronavirus vaccine are seen at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia. File Photo by RDIF/EPA-EFE

Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Hungary has become the first European Union country to approve Russia's "Sputnik V" coronavirus vaccine, government officials said Thursday.

The National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition in Budapest issued temporary licenses for the vaccine, as well as another vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Britain's Oxford University.

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Russia announced the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine last summer and has been distributing it for several weeks. Other nations, including Belarus and Argentina, have also been using the vaccine but Hungary is the first EU nation to approve it for use.

Budapest is still negotiating a deal to buy supplies of the Sputnik V vaccine and the new license is valid for six months, officials said.

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"The government wanted to purchase only such vaccines which had already been administered to millions of people, and -- naturally -- only the vaccines which have been officially vetted and authorized as safe and effective can be used for inoculation in Hungary," the institute said in a statement.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which has been approved for use in Britain, still must receive marketing authorization from the EU before it can be distributed in Hungary.

EU medial authorities said they plan to make a decision about the vaccine on Jan. 29.

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"As soon as EU begins shipments there will be no obstacle to mass vaccination in Hungary," government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs tweeted Thursday.

Neither vaccine has been approved yet for use in the United States. Two vaccines, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, have been distributed to U.S. facilities since mid-December.

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