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Hungarian authorities will make some changes to the country’s vaccination plan to ensure that “as many people as possible” receive at least the first shot, and obtain “if not full but significant” protection against Covid-19, the chief medical officer said on Friday.

Cecília Müller told an online briefing held by the board coordinating efforts against the pandemic that “the first jab of almost all vaccines yields 50-75 percent protection”, which she said was sufficient to prevent serious Covid symptoms, complications, or death.

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Müller said that the protocol of administering the second jab of the AstraZeneca vaccine could be changed.

She also said that the South-African variant of the coronavirus had been detected in a Hungarian patient. The patient had contacted a colleague who had visited Zambia, she added.

Müller warned that the number of new cases was increasing exponentially, but the appearance of new variants in Hungary was slower than elsewhere.

The new variants, she added, were stronger and more infectious, with a 70-percent higher reproduction rate than earlier variants. They can also cause a more serious illness, she said, calling on “everybody to do their own job to break the third wave”.

Müller added that the Brazilian and South African variants were more resistant to antibodies, which could result in reinfection.

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On Thursday, the British variant was identified in 418 Hungarian samples, and another, first identified in the Czech Republic, was found in 9 samples, Müller said. She added that further variants were found in 38 samples, but “those are no different from the known virus from an epidemiological point”.

The British variant causes a longer illness with somewhat more serious symptoms, while the patient also stays infectious longer, she said, added however that the current vaccines have been found to be effective against it.

“We will only be helped out of the pandemic through individual and communal protection,” Müller said, urging residents to continue observing the rules strictly and get vaccinated.

Müller said that those who had registered for vaccination would get at least the first shot before Easter.

Featured photo illustration by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI