Rollout of Sputnik vaccine in Slovakia still in doubt

Slovakia’s tortured debate over the Sputnik vaccine took another twist on Tuesday when the health ministry contradicted Finance Minister Igor Matovič’s assertion that vaccination with the Russian jab would start within days.

Despite the jab’s recent approval by a Hungarian lab, the health ministry “does not have official information [on a vaccination start] and none has been delivered to the ministry,” a ministry spokeswoman said, according to the daily SME. But she added that vaccination with Sputnik following approval by a professional authority “would be good news.”

The ministry’s refutation came a day after Matovič took to Facebook to declare that after the “excellent test results” from the lab in Hungary — and after three months “of all kinds of obstructions” —  vaccination with Sputnik would begin in “the coming days.”

Sputnik doses were sent to the Hungarian lab after the Slovak drugs regulator ŠÚKL rejected the jab on grounds that Russia had provided insufficient information on the samples. In addition, the Sputnik doses delivered to Slovakia were different from those supplied elsewhere or to the European Medicines Agency, which is conducting a rolling review.

Matovič protested those findings, charging that the Slovak labs analyzing the vaccine weren’t appropriately certified and therefore not qualified to pass judgment.

There also remains the question of what will follow Russia’s decision in late April to take back 600 doses of the vaccine for further analysis. Slovak Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský said at the time that those tests would take about one month to complete, and that the final decision on whether to use Sputnik would be made after the analyses were concluded — i.e., late May.

The fight, however, goes back to early March, when Matovič, who was prime minister at the time, unilaterally purchased 2 million Sputnik doses, provoking a government crisis that resulted in a cabinet reshuffle and his demotion to finance minister.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.



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