Slovakia became the second country in the EU to start inoculating citizens with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine on Monday, even though the jab has not yet been approved by the bloc’s regulator.
A man from the city of Zilinia was the first person to receive the shot. “I was really waiting for Sputnik,” said the man, who came dressed as a Christian pilgrim, in comments to broadcaster TA3. Russia has a long tradition of vaccine development, he said.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has yet to approve the vector vaccine, but Slovakia has begun to roll out the jab, despite extensive internal debate. Hungary has also started using Sputnik V.
Slovakia received 200,000 doses of Sputnik V in March, after former prime minister Igor Matovic ordered them secretly, sparking a controversy that contributed to his ouster.
Initially, only people aged between 18 and 60 are to be able to book appointments to receive the shot, which is offered on a voluntary basis.
The uptake of appointments to receive the Sputnik V jab has been far lower than had been initially anticipated, according to local media reports.
Matovic, now finance minister, blamed this on what he described as a “despicable campaign.”
Slovakia is mainly administering the vaccines against Covid-19 that are made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
The country, with a population of nearly 5.5 million, has recorded a death toll of more than 12,000.