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Gov’t Still Has Around 11 Million Vaccines, But Fewer Hungarians Are Getting Their Shot

Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show that Hungary has received more than 32 million vaccines. The country has used 15 million of these, while it has given away 5 million and sold another 1 million.

Based on these calculations, RTL News estimates that Hungary still has 11 million vaccines in storage.

However, fewer Hungarians have been getting vaccinated over the past few days than previously.

Whereas nearly 200,000 vaccines were administered from the end of January to the end of February, and another 321,000 people were vaccinated by the end of March, only 74,000 people have gotten a shot so far in April. [RTL.hu]

Jobbik Launches Petition Against Mandatory Vaccination

picture of Péter Jakab

“Orban lied! We’re launching a petition against mandatory vaccination,” wrote Jobbik President Péter Jakab on Facebook on Wednesday, accompanied by a video in which he explained the decision:

The government is making vaccines required in more and more places. Jobbik refuses vaccine mandates. Everyone is free to decide whether or not they want to get vaccinated.

According to Jakab, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán originally promised that that would not make the vaccine mandatory. However, said Jakab:

He then made it mandatory for police officers, firefighters, teachers, health workers, and finally he said it was up to the employer to decide. And I’m saying that you should decide.

-said the Jobbik President in the video.

Gergely Gulyás, head of the Prime Minister’s Office, announced last October in a Government Information briefing that employers would be able to make vaccination compulsory for their employees if they wanted. Vaccine mandates also apply to public school teachers. Educators who don’t get vaccinated will first be sent on unpaid leave, then can be dismissed if they still haven’t gotten the shot. [HVG]

Hungary has donated 2.5 million vaccine doses to Africa

picture of Péter Szijjártó

Hungary’s latest donation of 400,000 coronavirus vaccines to Ghana has arrived in the country, Péter Szijjártó wrote on Facebook.

The Foreign Minister stated that we can prevent the emergence of new variants if we help less-vaccinated countries. Hungary has contributed to the success of managing the pandemic in Africa with the 2.5 million doses it has provided to the continent thus far, he claimed.

The Hungarian government has donated a total of 3.8 million vaccine doses worldwide, of which Ghana has received 800,000. On Wednesday morning, President János Áder traveled to Ghana and Kenya for an eight-day official state visit.

Hungary’s head of state will visit the Newill Academy school in Koforidua, which was renovated through the “Hungary Helps” program, while in Kumasi he will visit a sewage treatment plant previously built by a company called Pureco through Hungarian experts.

According to the Office of the President of Hungary, no Hungarian head of state has visited these two countries since the change of regime in 1989.

[Index][Photo: Péter Szijjártó / Facebook]

Government using email addresses gathered through vaccine registration for propaganda purposes

picture of vaccine info website

The government has started sending propaganda material to email addresses that people voluntarily provided when they registered online to get the coronavirus vaccine, reports HVG.

To get vaccinated in Hungary, initially people had to book a time through the government’s Vaccine Info site. Two checkboxes were presented to the person using the site, one mandatory and the other optional. By ticking the mandatory box, the person who wanted to get vaccinated simply consented to sending necessary data to the National Health Insurance Fund (NEAK), without which they couldn’t have received the vaccine.

Next to the second, optional checkbox was the following text:

I consent to the processing of my personal details for the purposes of maintaining contact, as set forth in the privacy notice until I withdraw my consent.

The privacy notice stated that the person voluntarily consented to providing their personal details, in this case their name, email address, telephone number, and address, which would be handled by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office “for purposes of further contact, requesting information, providing information, or sending emails.” The Cabinet Office, headed by Minister Antal Rogán, is also responsible for government communication efforts, although processing the data of vaccine registrants is handled by a state-owned company called Idomsoft Zrt.

Emails are now more about government achievements than vaccine-related information

People presumably checked the second, optional checkbox on the Vaccine Info page to continue to receive information about available vaccines and other related information about the coronavirus epidemic in Hungary.

However, for some time now, Rogán’s ministry has been exceeding the authorization that was given by voluntarily ticking the box. In the past few days, several HVG employees have received the same email with the subject line, “Do you know about the most important changes for 2022?” sent by the Government Information Center from bounce@hirlevelkuldo.kormany.hu.

Regarding vaccination and the pandemic, the email only had this to say:

We will continue to work to reduce the epidemic through the vaccination program in 2022, and the country will continue to function and be further strengthened during this time. Our goal is for all Hungarians to experience this strengthening feeling in their own lives.

The rest of the email touts the government’s successes, detailing the measures taken at the beginning of this election year: raising the minimum wages for unskilled and skilled workers, wage increases in various industry sectors, tax cuts, the return of the 13th month pension, eliminating personal income tax for those under 25, tax breaks for families, and doubling the subsidies given for baby bonds.

But this email, sent at the beginning of the year, was not the first sent to those who registered for “vaccine information” that did not contain much information about the vaccine or the pandemic.

Last October, Viktor Orbán sent a similar letter to this email list trumpeting the success of the national consultation and its consequences: more than 1.4 million people had shared their thoughts with the government through the consultation, he wrote. Encouraged by this response, the government claimed it decided on a number of social welfare issues, which were largely the same measures listed in the later New Year’s email.

Gov’t told a different story back in 2020

In December 2020, news site Telex asked the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office what their specific intent was with the data they planned to collect. At that time, the Cabinet Office answered in a way that conformed with the likely expectations of people who checked the box:

We want to ensure that registrants have the opportunity to stay informed about the vaccine until they are notified of their vaccination date. The second consent allows this to be possible, subject to strict data protection rules. As in recent months, general information tasks related to the epidemic are being carried out by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, as indicted in provisions in the privacy notice.

Despite this statement, emails from the government in recent months appear to be using data for those who opted for “vaccine information” in quite a different way than what was originally promised.

[HVG]

Russian vaccine was approved in Hungary despite scientific doubts, missing data

picture of Sputnik vaccine

Although legal action against Hungary’s drug agency forced it to disclose its licensing agreements for the Russian Sputnik and Chinese Sinopharm vaccines, certain parts were still apparently blacked out. However, a “simple method” was used to uncover them and see what had been hidden, writes 444.

The details showed that according to experts hired by the government:

  • two factory visits to Russia were not valid to verify that proper manufacturing of Sputnik was being done
  • many key data were missing
  • the Russians had determined the efficacy of the vaccine with an outdated method.

Despite these concerns, the drug authority authorized Sputnik on the day of the second factory visit. Immunologist András Falus, who was a member of the team of experts but quit upon viewing the anomalies, now says that approval could only have occurred because of pressure from the top.

Hvg.hu contacted the Coronavirus Press Center about the discrepencies, which 444 says rarely provides meaningful answers to journalist questions. In its response, the Press Center called on the “left-wing press” to “end its campaign against vaccination and against certain vaccines.”

[444]

European Commission: despite Orbán’s denials, Hungary is taking part in joint vaccine procurement

picture of Pfizer vaccine

The Hungarian government continues to claim that it will not be taking part in the European Union’s purchase of Pfizer vaccines that it first declined at the end of May, but the EU appears to be contradicting this claim.

Minister Gergely Gulyás said in early December that new batches of vaccines for children would be arriving, and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also said this about a not-yet-developed vaccine for the omicron variant in his international press conference on Tuesday.

However, the European Commission has said that both of these will be purchased by EU Member States as part of its vaccine procurement. The Brussels-based body told this to 444 a few weeks ago about the vaccine for children, and has now confirmed it to Telex about the omicron vaccine.

Moreover, the Commission also revealed that the Hungarian government had joined its procurement on October 5. It could not have done otherwise, according to the body, as there has been no new contract between Pfizer and the EU since May.

[444]

Hungary donating 530,000 vaccines to Bangladesh

picture of Péter Szijjártó

Hungary’s Foreign Minister announced on his Facebook page on Wednesday that the country would be “providing the second-largest vaccine donation of all time” with a shipment of vaccines to Bangladesh.

According to Péter Szijjártó (pictured), the 530,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that Hungary is donating to Bangladesh will “help speed up the Bangladeshi vaccination campaign and contribute to making people around the world safer.” He added that “Bangladesh is a country with a population of 160 million, and one that Hungary works particularly well with on political, economic, and energy issues.”

The Foreign Minister also claimed that:

Hungary has millions of vaccines in reserve, which allows everyone to get their first, second, or even the third vaccine.

No official details have been given about a possible fourth vaccination yet, writes 444. Israel is the only country so far to begin offering it, and at the moment only older people and health care workers are eligible.

[444]

Hungary sending 150,000 vaccines to Tajikistan

picture of two politicians

Hungary is donating a large number of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines to Tajikistan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó announced on social media on Wednesday.

We have enough vaccines in Hungary, so we can help others. We are sending 150,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to our friends in Tajikistan so that they too can successfully protect themselves too

-wrote Péter Szijjártó.

The minister said the epidemic had started anew with a new variant causing alarm worldwide. “It can’t be emphasized enough that only the vaccine provides protection to keep you safe,” he added.

The Hungarian government has previously sent vaccines to other countries, such as 400,000 doses of AstraZeneca each shipped to Thailand and Vietnam, and 100,000 doses of Janssen to Slovenia in September. However, these were not donations as the government received payment for them.

Regarding the AstraZeneca vaccination, Minister of Human Resources Miklós Kásler recently said that the level of antibodies in this particular vaccine declines after the second shot for reasons that are not yet clear. “It follows,” he said, “that further vaccination with AstraZeneca is not recommended.” The minister did not reveal what data or research he was basing his recommendation on.

[444][Photo: Péter Szijjártó / Facebook]

All Hungarian MPs have reportedly been vaccinated

picture of Hungarian Parliament

Telex has confirmed that all Members of Parliament have been vaccinated, despite the fact that they have not made it mandatory for themselves.

Under current regulations, vaccination requirements are in effect for all staff working in the Office of the National Assembly, except for Parliamentary representatives.

Independent MP János Bencsik had previously proposed making vaccination compulsory for representatives.

The Socialists not only support the idea, but would even terminate the mandate of a Member who does not get vaccinated by December 31.

Green party LMP has not yet made a decision on whether to support the proposal, while Jobbik insists that there should be no vaccine mandates for anyone, as does Dóra Dúró from Mi Hazánk.

Despite the debate, it seems that all MPs have now gotten their Covid vaccine shot, says the news site.

[Telex, Index]

Vaccine Week to be extended for another week, no lockdown expected yet

picture of Viktor Orbán in Kossuth Rádió

The government is extending Vaccine Week for one more week, until December 5, which will allow Hungarians to get vaccinated without prior registration, announced Viktor Orbán on his weekly Friday morning interview on Kossuth Rádió.

The Prime Minister said that many people went in this week to get their third booster shot against the coronavirus, with relatively fewer of them getting their first or second shot.

Vaccination efficacy begins to weaken from around 4-6 months after the second shot, said Orbán, which is why more and more people who have only had two shots are getting infected. The booster shot extends the protection offered by the previous vaccinations, “so the third vaccine is definitely a life-saving vaccine,” he said.

Regarding the possibility of a lockdown, Viktor Orbán said the government had not yet decided on the matter yet. “We have to respond to whatever challenge we are given,” stated the Prime Minister. “So I don’t rule anything out, but I want to avoid anything that will be bad.” If booster vaccinations go up and the number of infections goes down, there will be no need for a lockdown, he said.

The Prime Minister also said that vaccination for those under 12 could begin soon, and that 2 million vaccines had already obtained for this. The first shipment of 130,000 vaccine doses for children will arrive on December 20, and will be delivered continuously after that. Viktor Orbán advised all parents to vaccinate their young ones.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the Comirnaty vaccine, developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, for children between 5 and 11 on Thursday.

Prime Minister Orbán also mentioned that the capacity of Hungarian health care during the epidemic is orders of magnitude higher than in Western Europe. He believes that Hungary has the means to deal with the situation, with beds, ventilators, vaccines, and medicine available, and that it all depends on the heroism of the doctors and nurses who do the superhuman and steadfast work.

[444]

Hungary may start producing vaccines based on Sinopharm and Sputnik

picture of Sinopharm vaccine

The government is not negotiating with the manufacturers of either Sputnik or Sinopharm for new shipments, said Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó at a press conference on Monday. The minister confirmed he was “absolutely certain that there would not be any more vaccines coming from the East.”

Although the government has ordered 5 million more vaccines, they will all be from Western manufacturers. Similarly, 80% of the 10 million vaccines available in Hungary are also Western-made.

Szijjártó, however, told news channel ATV that they were negotiating with the manufacturers of Sinopharm and Sputnik to “produce a vaccine under license for these two vaccines at the future national vaccine plant.” Szijjártó had previously announced that Hungary may adopt Sinopharm’s entire production technology.

The minister said that workers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Affairs will have to be vaccinated, but that he had not issued orders for a booster shot yet.

As to the question of whether the government is planning to mandate vaccination for the population similar to Austria, Péter Szijjártó stated that no further steps beyond what had already been announced were planned at the present time.

[HVG]

Vaccine Week off to a rip-roaring start

picture of woman getting vaccine shot

Vaccine Week started with a bang yesterday with 51,000 coronaviruses vaccines administered by noon at designated vaccination sites, announced the Secretary of State for Territorial Administration in the Prime Minister’s Office on public media. István György said that 42,000 of these were booster shots, 7,000 were people getting their first shots of the vaccine, and second vaccine shots made up the rest.

Five types of vaccines are being used, all of which are available at the vaccination sites. Soldiers and government officials are assisting medical personnel with management and administrative duties.

The roughly 7,000 first shots of the vaccine given out by noon on Monday are several times more than the average daily number of shots administered over the past few months, said István György, who encouraged everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

György also said that hospitals had been asked to open new vaccination sites if necessary to shorten long waiting times.

Vaccine Week launched on Monday at 101 hospitals and clinics across the country. Anyone can drop in between 7:00am and 7:00pm at these places without prior appointment or registration to get a vaccine or booster shot until Sunday.

[HVG]

Márki-Zay does not support Austria-style vaccine mandates

picture of Péter Márki-Zay

In an interview with TV news RTL Híradó, Péter Márki-Zay said that he is not a supporter of instituting vaccine mandates in Hungary.

The opposition coalition’s prime ministerial candidate discussed his views on Austria being the first country to make vaccination compulsory, which has resulted in tens of thousands of people taking to the streets.

Hungary should learn from countries that protect their citizens more effectively, said Márki-Zay, but he would not follow Austria’s example of instituting vaccine mandates, due to widespread societal resistance of them.

Péter Márki-Zay thought it was “outrageous” that the government was withholding information on the epidemic, saying that this is why so many people not only doubt the government’s competence and the effectiveness of the vaccines, but also the existence and danger of the virus.

The opposition politician stated that Hungary could better protect itself against the spread of the virus through social distancing, the use of facemasks, stores closings, and disinfection measures.

In addition, the mayor of Hódmezővásárhely has likewise not set vaccine requirements for municipal employees in his hometown either, as he considers it more important for everyone to decide their health matters for themselves.

[Telex]

Unvaccinated are in “life-threatening danger,” says Orbán

picture of Viktor Orbán

“Six million have been vaccinated, while everyone else is in imminent life-threatening danger,” Viktor Orbán told state radio on his regular Friday morning interview.

“But you can’t give people a police escort to get the vaccine, so we have to win over those who are against vaccination,” said the Prime Minister, adding that “we’ve also received vaccinations against mumps, measles, chickenpox, which we then typically don’t catch. This is why we’re still alive.”

Regading science, Orbán said he did not believe in it “unreservedly, in all respects, because it takes time for a scientific statement to prove itself.” Science is not “a god that can be trusted unconditionally,” he stated, but in this case, “science has proven results, and hundreds of thousands in Hungary would not be alive now if we they hadn’t been vaccinated.”

The government issued a new decree on Friday to introduce the wearing of facemasks in indoor spaces, which experts had been requesting for weeks. In addition, health care workers would not be able to resign while the pandemic is still raging.

As to the issue of Hungary’s vaccine supply, the Prime Minister told Kossuth Rádió that the country has 10 million vaccine doses, meaning “we can not only vaccinate everyone for a third time, but a fourth time as well.”

According to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, 26.2 million vaccine doses have been shipped to Hungary, but so far only around half of these, 13.46 million, have been administered.

In addition to the Covid pandemic and the vaccine situation, Orbán also talked about the government’s decision to set price caps on regular gasoline and diesel oil, as well as the possibility of a reduction in utility costs for small enterprises, which the government may decide on early next week.

[444]

Hungary’s vaccination rate is below the EU average

picture of Moderna vaccine

Six million of our compatriots have already been vaccinated, and those who haven’t yet should sign up to get it,

  • as posted by Viktor Orbán Tuesday on Facebook.

While six million vaccinated seems impressive at first, official statistics from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) provide a different perspective on the number, writes HVG. This is because the vaccination rate, here meaning the proportion of the population that has received two vaccine doses, is only 58.6% in Hungary, compared to the EU average of 64.9%.

Among standout countries in Europe, 78.5% of the population in Norway has received at least one vaccine, while this proportion is 77.7% in Iceland. In Spain and Portugal, these numbers are 80.5% and 87.9%, respectively.

However, the European health agency claims that the proportion of Hungarians who have received at least one shot is only 60.7%.

[HVG]

Győr mayor: why we made vaccines mandatory for city employees

picture of András Csaba Dézsi

Unlike most Hungarian cities, Győr has opted to make vaccination mandatory for employees at city hall and in companies run by the municipality.

The mayor of the town in northwestern Hungary, Dr. András Csaba Dézsi, explained his reasoning in the town’s newspaper, in an interview that he conducted with himself.

It turns out that Győr differs from most municipalities in one important respect: András Csaba Dézsi is still a practicing doctor, and he feels that, “As a doctor, I am convinced that vaccination will be what stops the epidemic and provides protection to people. And as mayor, as an employer, the government has given me the opportunity to put that conviction into practice.”

The government has given Hungarian municipalities the choice to implement vaccine mandates to municipal employees, but it has not been embraced by many of them. Thus far only the municipalities of Budapest’s District XII and District XVI have opted to make vaccination compulsory for workers under their control.

Dézsi also answered his own question about his thoughts on other municipal leaders who have complained that the government was passing on the decision to them.

To this, the mayor wrote, “I am used to having to take responsibility for my decisions, and this decision is, after all, close to my medical background. The legal background for the action was created by the government. Of course, you can run away from making important decisions, you can consider its popularity or unpopularity, you can even choose not to decide, but for me, doing this would have been very hypocritical.”

By now, 85% of Győr’s municipal employees have already recived the vaccine. The rest have 90 days to get their shot, or 60 days for those who regularly meet with clients. Anyone who does not get vaccinated will have to go on unpaid leave, according to the mayor.

“I don’t want to convince anyone. We’re past that at this point,” he wrote.

[Azonnali]

Teachers have until Dec. 15 to get vaccinated

picture of Hungarian classroom

Hungarian teachers will have to be vaccinated against Covid by December 15 or otherwise risk being sent on unpaid leave, reports Index.

District educations centers circulated a letter obtained by HVG that specified the deadline for teachers to receive the first dose of the vaccine, leaving the date of the second dose to be determined by a medical doctor. It apparently does not address the those who decided on the one-dose Janssen vaccine.

The vaccination must then be certified by school administrators.

Teachers who do not get vaccinated will be sent on unpaid leave, then dismissed from their position if they still have not gotten their shot after one year.

Gergely Gulyás, the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, stated at a Government Information session on Thursday that it was especially important for public employees who have contact with many people to vaccinate themselves.

The minister also said at the Government Info session that vaccination would be mandatory for teachers working as subcontractors as well.

[Index]