‘Plenty of vaccines from East & West’: Hungary opts out of EU’s new Covid-19 jab deal securing 1.8 billion Pfizer shots for bloc

Hungary has become the only country in the European Union to opt out of the bloc’s new massive deal with Pfizer. The pharma company has agreed to supply the EU with up to 1.8 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine until 2023.

Budapest’s decision was first announced by the EU Commission on Thursday as the executive body confirmed its new agreement with the drug maker on behalf of the bloc’s member states.

“Hungary opted out of the Pfizer deal,” the EU Commission stated.

The deal envisions supplying up to 1.8 billion doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine, with half the jabs being optional for purchase. “From the start of the supply in 2022, the delivery to the EU is guaranteed,” the commission added.

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Hungary confirmed it decided to opt out of the deal later Thursday. Explaining the move, Gergely Gulyas, PM Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, said Budapest would easily be able to procure vaccines elsewhere if it actually needs additional supplies.

“There are plenty of vaccines from Eastern and Western sources as well,” Gulyas said. “Hungary would not like to take part in the next chapter of Brussels’s vaccine-purchase program.”

Hungary is currently the only EU member state which has actively sought to secure additional Covid vaccine doses outside the bloc’s centralized vaccination program. Budapest has approved both Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm vaccines without waiting for a green light from European regulators.

While Hungary has been repeatedly criticized for going forward with the rollout of the ‘Eastern vaccines’ without the European Medicines Agency’s blessing, it consistently fought back, accusing the critics of politicizing the vaccination issue and calling out the EU’s vaccination campaign as being too sloppy.

Earlier this month, PM Orban urged the EU drug regulators to approve all the vaccines that had been proved safe and effective regardless of their country of origin, citing Hungary’s own experience in fighting the disease.

“We have lessons to share as Hungary has reopened almost completely,” Orban stated. “Hungarians have their freedom back, while in many European countries that is not the case.”

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, Hungary has registered some 8 million cases of coronavirus, while nearly 30,000 people have died of the disease. The country recently endured a period of extremely high mortality, though the situation has improved in recent weeks.

Hungary currently enjoys one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe. Late in April, Budapest opted to reopen most of its economy after 40% of its population had received at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine.

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