Slovak president backs scientists Russia said ‘damaged’ Sputnik V’s reputation

More than 20,000 people have signed a public petition in support of the scientists. [EPA-EFE/JAKUB GAVLAK]

Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová has backed the researchers that examined doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine after Russia criticised them for having “damaged the reputation” of the shot with their assessment.

The president met with the head of the country’s drug control body, the State Office for Drug Control (SODC), which was responsible for the inspection of the Russian vaccine, on Monday (12 April).

The move comes after the SODC said that the doses delivered were visibly different from those observed in a study of the vaccine published last year science magazine Lancet, and that Sputnik V jabs administered around the world were “related only in name.”

So far, the SODC, together with the Biomedical Centre of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, has performed 14 tests on the jab, of which 11 have had a positive outcome. A further three results are still being awaited.

However, since the Russian manufacturer did not supply the SODC with about 80% of the required documents, the SODC published an opinion last week, in which it wrote that it could not assess the jab’s risks or benefits. 

More than 20,000 people have signed a public petition in support of the scientists.

The SODC has also faced harsh criticism from Finance Minister Igor Matovič, who was replaced as the country’s prime minister after he bought the vaccine from Russia without consulting his coalition partners in government.

Following Matovič’s visit to Budapest on Friday for which he was criticised for going beyond his competencies, the vaccine is now to be tested by a Hungarian certified laboratory. It is unclear what exactly will be assessed in Hungary and what results Slovakia should expect from those tests.

Slovakia’s health ministry does not need the approval of the vaccine from any authority to start administering doses. All it takes is a decision that has already been signed by the former health minister. 

However, the ministry has said that it will only roll out vaccines that pass the standard approval process in a certified laboratory, or if they are given the green light by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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