Covid-hit Czech Republic poised to snub Brussels to get Russia’s Sputnik jab

Amidst an appalling public health disaster, the Czech Republic is ready to break with Brussels by adopting the Sputnik Covid vaccine, which is yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Prime minister, Andrej Babis has said the country “cannot wait” for the EMA to give the all the clear, approval by the Czech medicines agency, SUKL would be satisfactory to go it alone and get life-saving jabs from Russia.

On 10 February, the Czech PM said he would wait for the EMA’s green light, but has been forced to take matters into his own hands.

“We cannot wait for EMA, when Russia has not applied [for approval],” Babis told CNN Prima News.

“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.”

Babis has also indicated he would be prepared to follow Hungary in considering the China Sinopharm jab. Last month Hungary defied Brussels by approving the Sputnik jab unilaterally.

The government in Prague is desperate to access more vaccine as soon as possible having only inoculated 410,000 people while presiding over one of the worst infection rates in Europe. More than one in ten people have been infected with Covid 19, the level of contagion is 50% higher than anywhere in the EU at 1,120 new infections per 100,000 people.

Babis’ government has warned other EU leaders their assistance might be needed and has reached out further afield for support. Israel has provided 5,000 doses. Even vaccine-starved Germany has helped out with the state of Lower Saxony providing 15,000 jabs.  

The situation has become truly desperate. Hospitals are running out of beds. The government has responded by tightening lockdown, limiting the number of shops allowed to trade to the absolute minimum, and ramping up mass testing.

 “Those who do not test will be fined,” Babis told the media.

At the beginning of February, Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries, offered 5,000 doses of Covid vaccine to Hungary, a shocking indication of how bad the situation is in the EU. However, Viktor Orbán’s government declined the gesture.