The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine has arrived to Hungary’s GP offices, and has now effectively become a working part of the nation’s vaccination process. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s emphasis on urgency and the vaccine’s sudden authorization have, however, caused a growing amount of skepticism due to the lack of documentation available regarding its effacy and safety.
Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller announced today that the Sinopharm vaccine has arrived to clinics around Hungary, reports MTI.
She emphasized that there are currently enough doses for every family doctor to inoculate an average of 50-55 people, but this is dependent on the amount of people under the GP’s treatment. Some may even receive enough for the vaccination of 70 people.
Chief Medical Officer Asks Hungary Not to Fear Chinese Vaccine
Müller added that there is no vaccine that provides 100 percent effective protection from the virus, but all five vaccines authorized in Hungary can protect those inoculated from the serious, potentially deadly complications of the coronavirus.
She reminded the public that more than 30 million people have already been vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine, and requested that Hungarians remove their fears of the Russian and Chinese vaccines.
The medical officer also added that thanks to both Eastern and Western vaccines, Hungary has been able to rise above the European Union average vaccination rate.
Müller is counting on an estimated 368 thousand vaccinations within the next week.
This estimate consists of 275 thousand people receiving the Sinopharm vaccine, 52 thousand recieving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and 41 thousand people receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
An Increased Resistance to Mutations?
According to virus researcher Miklós Rusvai, the Chinese vaccine is more likely to provide an effective resistance to virus mutations.
With other vaccines, mutations such as the South African variant currently take away 5-8 percent of effectiveness, but the Sinopharm vaccine, since it contains similar proteins, is allegedly more effective in protecting people from such mutations.
Rusvai believes that the increased infection rate of the third wave is not caused by people breaking restrictions, but rather by new mutations taking hold in the population.
Some of Hungary’s Professionals Back Up Chinese Vaccine’s Efficacy
The vaccine can be administered to anyone above the age of 18, and is required to be administered in two doses, the second one 28 days after the first, reports koronavirus.gov.
Mátyás Szentiványi, head of the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYÉI) confirmed the government’s statement that since, according to the producer, anyone above the age of 18 can receive the vaccine, Hungarian authorities are also willing to allow it.
Still, there is doubt around whether the Sinopharm vaccine is safe to use on people above the age of 60, especially since there is little information on the its effect on that age group.
So far, the results of the first and second phases of clinical trials have been published, in which researchers conduct an analysis of the vaccine’s safety, efficacy, and dosage, on a relatively small number of subjects.
Still, the clinical trials show that the vaccine is safe for anyone between the ages of 18 and 80, and given that more than 30 million people have been vaccinated with Sinopharm’s vaccine with no reports of serious reactions or side effects, there is some proof of its safety from a practical perspective.
Family Doctors Show Their Concern
Regardless of how many people the vaccine has been used to inoculate, it is still worrying for many experts in the healthcare field that, unlike all other current vaccines, Sinopharm has provided minimal information on its vaccine.
Several family doctors told leftist daily Népszava that they would rather not administer the Chinese vaccine.
Earlier, the Hungarian Chamber of Doctors requested OGYÉI to provide more transparency around the vaccine’s documentation, but all they got in response was the vaccine’s product information provided by Sinopharm in Hungarian. This did not relate to what the chamber asked for, and when Népszava asked the chamber whether its worries had been lifted, no comments were made.
Gyula Keszthelyi, a family doctor in Cserepváralja, said that his clinic is only vaccinating people with vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency, and will not offer the Sinopharm vaccine to any of their patients, but will provide it if requested.
Another family doctor, Zoltán Komáromi, who is also a politician of leftist Democratic Coalition, does not understand why the government is allowing the use of the Chinese vaccine for anyone above the age of 60 if there is so little data available for its impact on that age group.
Hungarian Toxicologist Warns Public About Chinese Vaccine
In an online presentation from Szombathely’s Cultural Center, toxicologist Gábor Zacher mentioned that the vaccine is not recommended for those with an unstable chronic illness, a history of hypersensitivity, or a chronic illness which can easily flare-up.
The toxicologist suggests any of the other four vaccines currently authorized in Hungary, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Sputnik V, since they are transparent with their documentation.
The main problem Zacher finds with Sinopharm is that, unlike all other vaccine providers, the company has not provided the complete, detailed results of its clinical trials.
Responsibility Falls Into the Government’s Hands
The Hungarian government has been providing emergency authorization for vaccines such as Sinopharm and Sputnik V, bypassing the authorization procedure of the European Medicines Agency.
This allows for the vaccines to be used exclusively in Hungary, but could prove to be a problem if there are any complications with the Chinese or Russian vaccines.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has clarified that vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency are the responsibility of the vaccine’s producer, but if a member state chooses to provide a vaccine with emergency authorization, the producer is no longer liable, and responsibility shifts over to the authorizing government.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán seems to accept this responsibility. In a recently uploaded Facebook video, the prime minister announced that the Chinese vaccine has come into use, and that it has provided him with the hope that by next week Hungary’s leading pandemic authorities (government officials) will be allowed to receive their inoculations. Earlier, the PM stated that he would personally choose the Chinese vaccine, but also highlighted the reliability of the Russian one:
My standpoint is that the Chinese have known this virus the longest, so I believe that they probably also know the most about it. Anyway, I’m waiting for my turn, and if at that point I have a choice of vaccines, I’ll ask for the Chinese one.
The prime minister highlighted that an increased supply of vaccines can only lead to the whole country being vaccinated as soon as possible.
Featured photo by Noémi Bruzák/MTI