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COVID-19 vaccine: Hungary approves two more jabs not authorised by EU regulator

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By Associated Press
A pharmacist holds a packet of Sputnik V vaccines in Miskolc, Hungary, March 9, 2021.
A pharmacist holds a packet of Sputnik V vaccines in Miskolc, Hungary, March 9, 2021.   -   Copyright  Janos Vajda/MTI via AP
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Hungary has issued initial approval to two more COVID-19 vaccines from outside the European Union's common procurement programme, officials said Monday, further expanding the national supply of jabs that has given the country one of the highest vaccination rates in the 27-member bloc.

The Hungarian medicines regulator gave emergency approval to Convidecia, a vaccine produced by Chinese company CanSino Biologics, and to India's Covishield vaccine, Chief Medical Officer Cecilia Muller announced at an online press briefing.

The actions bring the number of vaccines authorised in Hungary to seven; shots developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and China's Sinopharm, as well as Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, are already in use.

“We are confident that with this increase in the range (of vaccines), we can also increase their quantity and provide the population with the opportunity to vaccinate as widely as possible," Muller said.

Convidecia - the second Chinese-produced vaccine approved in Hungary after the Sinopharm vaccine in February - is a single-dose viral vector jab currently approved for use in China, Pakistan and Mexico. Covishield, the Indian version of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccine, is produced by the Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer.

Hungary has the second-highest vaccination rate in the EU with some 16% of the population having received at least one dose compared to the bloc's average of around 9%. The country was the first in the EU to begin using vaccines from Russia and China, and the Hungarian government has criticised the bloc's vaccine rollout.

Muller did not provide details on when or how many doses of the CanSino Biologics and Covishield would arrive in Hungary.

The approval of the jabs came days after a legal change that loosened rules on approval of medicines and vaccines.

Hungarian authorities hope that widespread vaccination will help pull the country out of a recent surge in infections that has shattered records set during its worst periods of the pandemic late last year.

Hungary now has the sixth-worst cumulative death rate per 1 million inhabitants in the world, overtaking the United Kingdom over the weekend, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the last week, Hungary had the fastest-growing per capita death rate in the world.

As of Monday, 18,451 people had died of COVID-19-related causes in the country of fewer than 10 million.