Hungary will buy vaccines either through the European Union's procurement mechanism or directly from China because Russia does not have enough capacity to manufacture vaccines, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said on Thursday.
Hungary has participated in Russia's testing efforts and was an early recipient of small batches of Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine
, raising alarm among European peers that it would bypass the European Union's approval mechanism.
"Russia has inadequate manufacturing capacity," Gergely Gulyas told broadcaster ATV in an interview, according to a transcript on ATV's web site.
He added Hungary had been happy to take part in Russia's trials but large-scale vaccine
procurement would have to be "part of the EU process or from China".
His remarks are the first clear indication that Russian vaccines will not be used in mass inoculations in Hungary.
Hungarian premier Viktor Orban
has come under criticism during his decade-long rule for building ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, including massive joint projects, such as a new nuclear power plant.
Orban has said Hungary would not rule out any avenue to secure any vaccine
that it could, and Budapest has sent expert teams to Russia to observe manufacturing. It has also agreed to participate in its trials.
Its government has not committed to subject the vaccines it uses to the European Medicines Agency for approval and has repeatedly said it would use its own experts for testing and approval, which is a temporary option for EU member states in an emergency situation.
In common with some other European countries, Hungary has also fostered ties with China, as part of its "eastern opening" strategy. (Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Jon Boyle and Barbara Lewis)