ŠÚKL: We will not succumb to political pressure

The head of the medicines agency faces anonymous death threats. It is becoming ever harder to lead the organisation after the attacks from Matovič.

ŠÚKL director Zuzana BaťováŠÚKL director Zuzana Baťová (Source: SITA)

The Slovak national medicines agency condemns what they see as emotional and political pressure that the finance minister is putting on the institution, its director and her family.

Related articleOne reason the Russians are demanding Sputnik V back is that Slovakia did not pay Read more 

The Slovak Institute for Drug Control (ŠÚKL) issued the statement on the evening of April 15, following the press conference of OĽaNO leader Igor Matovič, who now serves as finance minister. Matovič has repeatedly accused ŠÚKL and its director Zuzana Baťová of leading a smear campaign against the Russian vaccine Sputnik V that he procured earlier in February when he was still prime minister. Slovakia thus owns 200,000 doses of the vaccine that have been stored in its reserves since early March but have not yet been put to use.

Sputnik can roll out without the green light from ŠÚKL

Matovič blames Baťová for causing his Russian partners to lose trust in Slovakia, due to the institute's statement from April 8 that Sputnik V is used in 40 countries of the world but the vaccines have only the name in common.

"Based on the published reports, Sputnik V is reportedly used in about 40 countries of the world, but these vaccines only have their name in common. The comparability and consistency of different batches produced in different places have not been proven," ŠÚKL stated on April 8.

Related articleSputnik V could have been rolling out in Slovakia for weeks Read more 

While Matovič claims their assessment was politically motivated, ŠÚKL insists that their report was made based on the information provided to them by the manufacturer of the vaccine, who is obliged to prove its quality, safety and efficacy, as well as the equality of the vaccine used across different countries and studies.

Authority sees media attack launched by Matovič

ŠÚKL again stressed that the Health Ministry requested the report from them, while their evaluation is not required for the vaccine to be released for use in Slovakia. Regardless of the ŠÚKL assessment, the vaccine can be used based on the authorisation of the Health Ministry for the therapeutic use of an unregistered drug, the statement reads.

"ŠÚKL cannot change its expert opinion of the vaccine based on public opinion polls, pressure from the finance minister or threats that its statements have provoked among a certain part of society," ŠÚKL stated, adding they were not aware of any mistakes in the assessment process on their part and charged that Matovič continues airing untrue claims and throwing doubts on their work as a regulatory authority.

"We consider today's press conference of the finance minister to be an ongoing media attack targeted against the director of the state institute and the institution as such," ŠÚKL concluded.

Baťová also admitted during a talk show on the public-service RTVS later in the day that it was becoming ever harder for her to lead the organisation. She said they have received threats and she has received anonymous death threats that the police are reportedly dealing with.

Related articleHungarian contract on Sputnik V shows that Russia bears no responsibility Read more 

Matovič repeatedly stated that ŠÚKL acted based on political rather than professional motivations. Following his April 8 meeting with the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) who markets the vaccine globally, Matovič claimed that the Russian side wanted the vaccine to be assessed by another laboratory elsewhere in Europe, which is why he proceeded and made a deal with the Hungarian government to allow the Slovak-owned batches of Sputnik V to be tested there before it is put to use in Slovakia.

Earlier on April 15, President Zuzana Čaputová demanded the Sputnik V contract be made public. She stated the Russians' dissatisfaction with the Slovak laboratory was not the reason for their demand that Slovakia returns the vaccines it has purchased. Matovič admitted during his press conference that the official reason stated in the letter that the RDIF sent to the government on April 6 is that Slovakia failed to pay for the delivery.

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