Speaking to CNN Prima News on Saturday, Babis confirmed that Prague will not wait for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve Sputnik V and that an approval from the country’s State Institute for Drug Control (SUKL) would be enough to begin the vaccine’s rollout.
“We cannot wait for EMA, when Russia has not applied [for approval],” Babis stated. “SUKL must examine the documentation and if they approve it, the Health Ministry has to issue an exemption… and then, whoever is interested can get inoculated.”
Earlier in the day, the PM talked about the option to use Sputnik V without the EMA’s approval with the iDNES.cz outlet reporting a similar statement.
It is not a question of geopolitics, but of human health and our efforts to protect our nation as much as possible.
The remarks follow revelations made by President Milos Zeman, who said he sent a letter to his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, asking for a Sputnik V vaccine shipment. Zeman said he expected Putin to approve the request shortly.
“If I am properly informed, this request will be granted,” he stated.
The remarks by top Czech officials apparently constitute Prague’s change of heart on how the Russian-made vaccine may be used in the country. Earlier this month, Babis said it would be only possible when the EU regulators approve it.
Now, the Czech Republic may become the second EU nation to embrace Sputnik V. Earlier this month, Hungary began to vaccinate its citizens with the Russian-made vaccine, dismissing the need for the bloc’s approval as being purely political.
“The pandemic must be fought with as much vaccine as possible – that we can acquire as quickly as possible,” Hungarian PM Viktor Orban told Berlin-based Focus earlier this week. “There is no Eastern or Western vaccine – there are only the good ones and bad ones. The Hungarian health authorities have run their tests and guarantee the effectiveness of the vaccine.”
The Czech Republic has been heavily hit by the pandemic, showing one of the worst infection and death rates in the world. Around one tenth of its population of some 10.7 million has been infected, with more than 1.2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported, while more than 20,000 have succumbed to the disease.
Restrictive measures, including the closure of most public places, and even such extremes as mandatory double masking on public transport seem to have failed to slow down the spread, and the country’s officials have repeatedly warned about a potentially impending collapse of its entire healthcare system.
The authorities now are expected to tighten curbs on the freedom of movement, including the imposition of bans on non-essential travel to other countries. Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said the sweeping travel ban will be enforced by the military and the police.
The restrictions will also see nurseries and schools for disabled children shut their doors, and people will be banned from leaving their municipalities other than for essential purposes.
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