The recent statements of Finance Minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) concerning the testing of the Sputnik V vaccine have harmed the reputation of the Institute of Virology, which runs under the Biomedical Research Centre of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (BMC SAV). They also undermine the work of scientists.
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Matovič should thus publicly apologise, said Juraj Kopáček, scientific director of the Institute of Virology.
“He humiliated the scientists who have been voluntarily helping our country with testing, the development and validation of tests, pilot studies, sequencing, offering professional advice and information since the pandemic outbreak,” Kopáček added, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “We have sacrificed a lot of time and energy to the fight against the pandemic, including most of our free time.”
The Veda Pomáha (Science Helps) initiative sent an open letter, demanding that PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) apologises in the name of the entire government for the inappropriate and unacceptable statements of Matovič towards Slovak scientists and scientific institutions.
President plans to visit the institutions
He has reiterated that the request to test the Russian vaccine was sent to them by the Health Ministry on March 5, when it was led by OĽaNO’s Marek Krajčí. He also stressed they are an institution with certificates and qualifications to perform such tests, as reported by TASR.
Matovič, who travelled to Russia last week to discuss Sputnik V, said on Friday, April 9, that Russia wants the vaccine back as they feel harmed by the fact that the Slovak medicines authority, the State Institute for Drug Control (ŠÚKL), entrusted the testing to labs that are not registered with the European network, thus harming the vaccine’s reputation.
Neither ŠÚKL nor BMC SAV were aware they violated the agreement with Russia, claiming it is confidential and that nobody warned them of this possibility. They also said that they notified the Health Ministry about who will test the vaccine. Moreover, Zuzana Baťová, head of ŠÚKL, has said on several occasions that the European labs had refused to test the vaccine, claiming they do not examine vaccines unregistered by the European Medicines Agency.
President Zuzana Čaputová will visit both institutions on Monday, April 12.
Support for scientists
Meanwhile, several politicians, scientists and even chief hygienist Ján Mikas have supported both ŠÚKL and BMC SAV.
SAV’s board expressed its full support for the Biomedicine Research Centre during the weekend, claiming it is a highly respected scientific institution that has been involved in the Covid testing of people in Slovakia, virus sequencing and even the development of the vaccine.
Most recently, the experts who counsel the government on pandemic-related issues expressed their concern over the statements that undermine the work of some state and scientific institutions.
“The disparaging statements exceed the borders of tolerance that is accepted in a decent society as a behaviour norm,” reads the statement, as quoted by TASR, adding that similar claims might harm the trust in scientific and professional institutions both in Slovakia and abroad.
Still, the statement is very general and not signed with concrete names.
PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) also expressed support for scientists in general during the political talk show Sobotné Dialógy broadcast by the public-service RTVS on April 10. He considers it unfortunate that the pandemic has turned into a political issue.
Read more about the coronavirus developments in Slovakia:
- Measures valid in Slovakia as of March
- Statistics of the positive coronavirus cases
- Tightened border regime: State orders self-isolation and testing for all incomers as of February 17
- Do I have the new coronavirus? How to proceed if you have a suspicion
- I encountered a person who is COVID-19 positive. What do I do next? (FAQ)
- When will I get my COVID vaccine? FAQs about vaccination in Slovakia