Hungary has become the first European country to receive samples of the Russian-developed COVID-19 vaccine , known as Sputnik V.
The doses arrived on a flight during which the temperature was kept below minus 18 degrees Celsius.
It’s the most controversial of the vaccines against COVID-19 because so little is known about it.
Last week the developers announced that Sputnik was 92 percent effective, but this was based on 20 cases of COVID-19 amongst trial participants.
Vaccines being developed by U.S. firm Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have shown slightly better results on a much larger sample of people exposed to the virus.
Dr Hans Kluge, the Regional Director for Europe at the World Health Organisation, said: “The World Health Organisation is in touch with the Russian vaccine developers on exchanging data on what we call phase three of the clinical trial.
“There are three phases and phase three is the phase that thousands and thousands of volunteers are getting the vaccine, particularly to study safety. This is in process for the time being. This is a process that is standardised for any vaccine under development and there is no vaccine that can bypass the essential safety and effectiveness criteria.”
Hungarian plans to conduct trials of and possibly produce the Russian vaccine are adding to frictions with Brussels after the country blocked the EU budget and recovery fund plans alongside Poland. Under EU rules, Sputnik must be authorized by the European Medicines Agency before it can be marketed in any state of the 27-nation bloc.
Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s Foreign Minister, said: “The sample has now been transferred to our laboratory, where Hungarian experts will examine it, so that they’ll be able to make a well-based decision on its possible usability and licensing.
“We can start these comprehensive studies as soon as we receive the full documentation of the vaccines from the Russian manufacturer.”
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on state radio that the government has marked interest in 12 million doses of coronavirus vaccines in addition to Sputnik and he said vaccination will not be compulsory.
Asked about turning vaccines into a new Cold War, East v West, he said he was not, adding: “All vaccines will be available in Hungary. The people will decide who to trust.”