The prime minister said countries must quickly purchase as many coronavirus vaccines as possible, regardless of whether they come from the East or the West.
During an interview with German news portal Focus Online, when asked about Hungary’s decision to buy Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that in a pandemic, a politician’s job was to take responsibility and protect the health and lives of his country’s citizens. He said there were no “Eastern or Western vaccines”; only good or bad ones. When the Hungarian authorities conclude that a vaccine is safe and effective, they authorise it, he added. “From that point on, to me, a vaccine that has been granted authorization is a Hungarian vaccine I can use to save the lives of my compatriots,” PM Orbán said.
According to MTI, the prime minister said it was possible to treat the procurement of vaccines and the tense relations between the European Union and Russia as separate issues. He underscored that human life and the protection of health took precedence over political, including geopolitical considerations.
“Looking at it objectively, it’s clear that the eastern part of Europe developed a vaccination culture during the communist era which led to eastern Europe eradicating the polio virus a lot sooner than western Europe, where the Russian vaccine was not adopted for ideological reasons,” PM Orbán said.
When asked about the European Union’s centralized vaccine procurement program, PM Orbán said it had become clear that “this was the wrong decision.” The United States, Britain, Israel and even Serbia “are well ahead of us EU member states”, he said, adding at the same time that it was now “too late” to change course and “complaining is pointless”. “Let the European Commission do what it has to do,” PM Orbán said. “We won’t get in its way and we’ll support it wherever we can, but out of responsibility for our people, we’ll exercise our national competences.”
Finally, when asked why he did not consider Hungary to be bound by the EU decision on vaccine procurement, PM Orbán said: “Brussels follows its own logic. It doesn’t take into consideration the importance of the time factor and is too slow to issue approvals and doesn’t appear to be talking to suppliers from a position of strength.” However, EU regulations do not bar member states from acting on their own, and the Hungarian government has taken advantage of this, he said.
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