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UPDATE 1-Czech president asks China for Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine

·2-min read

(Adds details, other vaccine deals)

PRAGUE, March 3 (Reuters) - The Czech Republic has asked China for deliveries of coronavirus vaccines made by China's Sinopharm, the Czech president's spokesman said on Wednesday.

The central European country of 10.7 million has been one of the world's worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with hospitals reporting full capacity and the death toll reaching 20,941 as of Tuesday.

President Milos Zeman, who has long lobbied for closer relations with China and Russia, asked his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for the supplies, acting upon request from Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Zeman's spokesman said.

"According to a report from the Czech embassy in Beijing, the Chinese side has decided to immediately meet this request," the spokesman said in a statement on the president's website.

A spokesman for Babis said he was not aware of the request when asked by Reuters. Babis did not mention it at a government news conference that closed just as the announcement was made.

Like other EU states hampered by delays in deliveries from the three producers whose shots have been registered in the UE, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, the Czech government has sought to boost supplies.

It won an agreement for advance supply of 100,000 of extra doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from EU partners earlier on Wednesday, on top of 100,000 from France offered last week, and smaller amounts from Germany and Israel.

Babis has reversed himself several times on possibly using Russia's Sputnik vaccine without approval by the European drug regulator EMA.

The country's Health Ministry, authorized to grant an exception for usage of unregistered vaccines, has insisted it would not endorse any without EMA registration. A spokeswoman said on Wednesday that policy remained unchanged.

In the EU, Hungary started administering the Sinopharm shot last week, and Polish President Andrzej Duda has discussed buying the shot with Xi, the PAP news agency reported on Monday. (Reporting by Jan Lopatka, additinoal reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by David Gregorio)