By Michael Heitmann and Birgit Zimmermann, dpa
A total of 15,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses will be sent starting on Monday from Germany to the neighbouring Czech Republic, which is struggling with the highest infection rate in the entire European Union.
The German states of Saxony, Bavaria and Thuringia have spearheaded the effort to help the Czech Republic. Saxony’s government announced the vaccine aid on Sunday.
The Czech Republic’s 10.7 million residents are living under a state of emergency imposed to help reduce the infection rate. Freedom of movement has been drastically curtailed and schools and businesses closed.
The emergency is set to last through March 28 and 5,000 soldiers will aid police officers in ensuring compliance with the rules.
So far the country has administered some 644,321 doses of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
Amid frustration over the vaccine shortage in the EU, Czech President Milos Zeman said he had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in obtaining the Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V.
Zeman told CNN Prima News on Saturday he went directly to Putin with the request, which he expected to be granted.
He admitted, however, that Sputnik V has not been endorsed by EU regulators and is still pending approval in his own country.
While Zeman says approval by the Czech State Institute for Drug Control would be sufficient, Prime Minister Andrej Babis has recently expressed that official approval by the European Medicines Agency would be needed.
Russia approved the Sputnik V vaccine last summer before conducting important phase 3 trials.
In early February, the medical journal The Lancet published data on the Russian-developed vaccine, finding it to be 91.6-per-cent effective against Covid-19.
The researchers said there had only been a few cases of serious side effects with Sputnik V, but they did not attribute them to the vaccine.
According to Russia, the vaccine has now been registered in more than 30 countries. In February, Hungary started administering the Russian vaccine, becoming the only EU country to do so.