A Russian medical worker displays a trial vaccine against COVID-19 in a post-registration phase of the test at outpatient hospital number 68 in Moscow, Russia, 17 September 2020. Russia registered the new vaccine called 'Sputnik V' against Coronavirus Sars-Cov-2 and opens the stage of its massive testing. EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY

By failing to ensure a sufficient supply of anti-coronavirus vaccines to the Czech Republic, the European Union ‘indirectly prompts’ the republic’s government to start talks with Russia on Sputnik V before it is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Friday.

“[The EU] indirectly prompts us to do this [buy the Russian-made vaccine],” the premier said. “It is of no surprise to me that Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says he is ready to buy one million doses of Sputnik V [for his country].”

“We, on the contrary, used to say that we want to get only EMA-approved vaccines. But now we have found ourselves in a situation when declarations of solidarity are made, but, when it comes to [practical] action, nothing happens.”

Earlier on Friday, Babis criticized the EU for lacking solidarity while allocating anti-coronavirus vaccines. The comment was made in response to a declaration by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which says that while distributing an additional “solidarity” batch of 10 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the majority of EU members waived their share for the benefit of Slovakia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Latvia and Estonia.

Czech President Milos Zeman has repeatedly spoken in favor of purchasing Sputnik V, because his country is among the hardest-hit EU members. Babis has also demonstrated interest in the Russian vaccine. However, Czech Health Minister Jan Blatny refused to authorize the use Russia’s Sputnik V anti-coronavirus vaccine without prior approval by the European Medicines Agency.

Russia was the world’s first to register an anti-coronavirus vaccine on August 11, 2020. The vaccine, developed by the Russian Health Ministry’s Gamaleya National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology, was dubbed Sputnik V. In early February 2020, The Lancet, a world-acclaimed medical journal, published the results of the third phase of Sputnik V’s clinical tests. The jab has proved to be among the world’s safest and most efficient. Thus, its efficacy is estimated at 91.6%. Ninety-eight percent of volunteers developed antibodies to the coronavirus.

As many as 59 countries with a total population of over 1.5 bln people have approved the Sputnik V vaccine and more than 30 countries have launched mass Sputnik V vaccinations.