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If EU Gives Go-Ahead, Cyprus Will Use Russia’s Sputnik Vaccine

NICOSIA — With worry about side effects from AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine possibly sidelining its use for now, Cyprus said it would buy Russia’s Sputnik version if the European Medicines Agency (EMA) declares it safe.

Sputnik had been viewed dubiously as it was developed rapidly in 2020 as the pandemic raged around the world but with not enough vaccines to go around there is renewed interest in its use, an official not named told Reuters.

The EU has approved four vaccines and made deals with Western vaccine makers on behalf of the 27-member bloc, but problems with production and now over AstraZeneca have added to a shortage.

That has led some countries to try to find their own and break with the EU – which was upset that AstraZeneca was moving too slowly or hoarding supplies for the United Kingdom, where it is located.

Cypriot government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos was quoted by the semi-official Cyprus News Agency saying authorities would order 50,000 doses, subject to prior vetting and approval by the pharmaceuticals regulator.

Hungary and Slovakia have acquired the Russian vaccine, and the Czech Republic has said it may place an order while a Health Ministry spokesperson in Cyprus told Reuters earlier authorities could not take a position on whether the specific vaccine or any other vaccine should be approved unless all available data was assessed by the EMA.

The EMA on March 4 said it had started a rolling review of the vaccine. That review would speed up any approval process by allowing researchers to submit findings in real-time before final trial data is ready.

After skepticism over Sputnik’s efficacy, as it was produced without waiting for the results of full clinical trials, scientists said they have found it to be 92 percent effective against the Coronavirus.

That was based on peer-reviewed late-stage trial results published in The Lancet medical in February. The two-shot vaccine uses two different weakened common cold viruses to deliver immune-building protein to the human body.

Cyprus was easing a lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the virus but had to rejigger it after variants were making cases soar even as the country planned to reopen to tourists this month.

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