The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine has stirred up a clash of ideas in Hungary between the government’s representative’s and the opposition. The opposition criticize what they view as the rushed procurement of the vaccine, while the Hungarian government defends its reliability, as well as their decision regarding its procurement.
Opposition Parties Accuse Fidesz
Opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) has started an online petition to halt the administration of the Sinopharm vaccine until it has been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The government has responded that the opposition party should not put peoples’ lives in danger.
Máté Kanász-Nagy, representing centrist green party LMP, has accused the prime minister of making statements that put serious pressure on the authorities dealing with the licensing of the Chinese and Russian vaccines. LMP asserts that vaccine acquisition should not be rushed, nor should it be influenced by politics.
Leftist green Párbeszéd’s Benedek Jávor said the mass use of the Chinese vaccine without a thorough authorization is a huge gamble for Hungary. His statement refers to the Hungarian government’s emergency authorization to give any vaccine approved by the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYÉI) the greenlight into Hungary, regardless of the decision of the EMA.
Jávor also wants answers as to why some of Sinopharm’s executives have recently left, why the company is not applying for European Union authorization, and why data on the vaccine’s mass testing is not public.
In an interview with leftist daily Népszava, German member of the European People’s Party’s in the European Parliament and spokesman for health Peter Liese said that Europe does not need the Chinese vaccine. He emphasized that EU agreements (which currently only include western vaccines) contain twice as many vaccine orders than what is required for everyone’s inoculation.
The speed of procurement is not the only area to be considered, but also the long term process of vaccination. We need to reassure people in all areas if we want them to get inoculated”
Fidesz: opposition risks people’s lives by rejecting Chinese vaccine
Viktor Orbán urged Hungarian authorities to make a circumspective decision as soon as possible, since “there are more than a million” vials of the Chinese vaccine which can, within the next few days, be shipped to Hungary. The OGYÉI did not directly respond to his statement.
When asked whether the prime minister would inoculate himself with the Chinese vaccine, the Prime Minister’s Office responded that Hungarian officials would be vaccinated with whichever vaccine the OGYÉI deemed safe for use.
Unlike other state leaders around the world who have the capacity to do so, Hungarian officials have not yet been inoculated with the coronavirus vaccine.
Miklós Kásler, Minister of Human Resources, stated that the pandemic can only be cured with mass vaccination, and that the rejection of the Chinese vaccine by the opposition is “not only astonishing but dangerous”.
Kásler, a medical doctor and government official, condemned what he believes to be ‘fear-mongering’, stating that Hungary needs to turn to the Sinopharm vaccine because of the ineffectiveness of the EU’s joint procurement plan.
Tamás Deutsch, representative of Fidesz in the European Parliament, accused DK leader Ferenc Gyurcsány of employing fear tactics to dissuade Hungarians from using the Chinese vaccine. Deutsch says that we are using Chinese products in our everyday life already.
Foreign ministry State secretary Tamás Menczer said on Facebook that following Hungary’s negotiations with Sinopharm, 14 European countries had contacted the company, many of them turning to the Hungarian government with their questions.
Menczer continued that during Christmas Hungarian doctors went to China to study documentation on the vaccine and engage in video conferences, concluding, based off their results, that the vaccine is reliable.
The National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYÉI) has so far stated that the Sinopharm vaccine is produced in safe conditions in a modern factory, but that its effectiveness requires further study.
Sinopharm has said that they will be able to produce one million servings of the vaccine this year for foreign use.
Featured photo illustration by Tibor Illyés/MTI