It has been decided to buy an amount of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine once it will be approved by the European Medicines Agency, government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos told state radio.

The decision was made two weeks ago but only announced on Tuesday.

“It will be a bilateral agreement. This decision was approved fortnight ago,” he said.

“The issue is being handled by the health minister. Once we have the vaccine approved, we will proceed with the purchase.”

He added it has been decided to purchase 50,000 vaccines and there is a possibility of an increase depending on the availability of other vaccines.

The EU has approved four vaccines so far and has signed deals with Western vaccine makers on behalf of the 27-member bloc, but production glitches have slowed the rollout and some member states are seeking their own solutions.

Hungary and Slovakia have acquired the Russian vaccine, and the Czech Republic has said it may place an order.

A health ministry spokesperson in Cyprus told Reuters last week authorities could not take a position on whether the specific vaccine or any other vaccine should be approved unless all available data was assessed by the EMA.

The EMA had on March 4 announced it had started a rolling review of the vaccine. That review would speed up any approval process by allowing researchers to submit findings in real-time before final trial data is ready.

The shot’s efficacy was initially greeted with scepticism by some Western scientists after Russia approved it in August last year without waiting for the results of full clinical trials.

However, scientists said it was almost 92% effective in fighting COVID-19, based on peer-reviewed late-stage trial results published in The Lancet medical journal last month.

The two-shot vaccine uses two different weakened common cold viruses to deliver immune-building protein to the human body.