Political tensions should not affect international cooperation in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in the field of vaccination, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told NY Pilot.
International cooperation based on mutual respect is now more important than ever before, Szijjarto said, adding that “hypocrisy, political correctness, judging and lecturing each other should be left behind” as the world struggles to cope with the pandemic that already claimed the lives of more than 1.2 million people.
“I have a feeling that the issue of vaccines is becoming over-politicized,” he said.
“Instead of attacking other countries on a political basis, we should think about how to cooperate,” the minister said. “It is about people’s lives,” the official, who himself contracted Covid-19 and has been in quarantine for nine days, warned.
This cooperation is especially important when it comes to vaccines, as vaccination is the “only solution” to the crisis and any other measures would be “interim,” he said.
“The more vaccines the better,” Szijjarto said, adding that his nation is “interested” in any prospective vaccines regardless of their country of origin and is currently negotiating about vaccine purchases with the US, Russia, China, and Israel. Buying a Pfizer vaccine “within the common European framework” is on the table as well.
The minister also confirmed that Hungary hopes to localize production of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, or at least part of the production chain, adding that he is currently in active talks with Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko and Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov.
Szijjarto said Hungary “will not allow anybody to put pressure on us not to negotiate with eastern counterparts” and denounced what he called “rumors” about EU members being unable to purchase vaccines from outside the union as “absolutely not true.”
Hungary plans to receive the first, small-scale batch of Russian vaccines in December to hold domestic clinical trials and tests, Szijjarto confirmed, adding that some larger-scale purchases for general use could follow in the second half of January.
Russia was the first nation to register its Covid-19 vaccine in September, provoking skeptical reactions from some international commentators. Brussels excluded Sputnik V from its early order scheme, adding that it would only cover European companies.
The developers of the Sputnik V vaccine said earlier on Wednesday that it appears to have 92-percent efficacy, citing preliminary results of large-scale Phase III clinical trials.
As for his own illness, Szijjarto said he has exhibited all kinds of symptoms while in quarantine and that the disease took a heavy toll on his health. Symptoms may change very rapidly, making it difficult to forecast its development, he explained.
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