Russia’s Sputnik vaccine gets its first approval in the EU, greenlight from UAE amid ongoing trials

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine got a series of boosts on Thursday as Hungary and the United Arab Emirates became the first countries in the European Union and Gulf region, respectively, to register the shot for emergency use. 

Hungary’s decision was confirmed by President Viktor Orban’s spokesperson, who said that if the country agrees on a shipment deal with Moscow, it will become the first European Union country to receive the vaccine. This comes as the country’s cases have fallen from a peak of more than 6,000 per day in early December to below 2,000 per day. 

“This decision is very important as it demonstrates that the vaccine’s safety and efficacy of over 90% are highly regarded by our partners in Hungary,” Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, said in a statement. 

The EU’s medicines regulator has yet to approve the Russian jab, though German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave Sputnik further hope on Thursday, suggesting that Germany’s vaccines regulator could advise Russia on navigating the EU approval process. The RDIF has filed Sputnik for EU registration and expects its review in February.

UAE approval comes amid dramatic surge in infections

The approval from the UAE comes amid a record surge in cases in the small Gulf sheikhdom, which has stood out internationally for welcoming tourists and fully reopening its economy by late summer of last year. 

Confirmed coronavirus cases have more than tripled in a span of roughly three weeks, leading Emirati authorities to suspend nonessential surgeries in hospitals and “entertainment activities” in its bustling hotels and restaurants just days after assuring the country that the virus was under control.

The UAE’s daily case count hit a record high 3,529 on Thursday, far above its neighboring Gulf Arab countries where registered infections hover below 500 per day.