Hungary is the only European Union country that has decided to not take part in the next phase of vaccine procurement organized by the EU; therefore, the country will not receive any further Pfizer vaccine doses in the future. According to the official explanation, Hungary has enough vaccines even without the new procurement, so more Pfizer vaccines are unnecessary. However, the announcement surprised many Hungarian health experts who slammed the Orbán government’s decision.
Hungary will not take part in the next phase of vaccine procurement organized by the European Union, the prime minister’s chief of staff announced on Thursday. As it turns out, Hungary is the only country in the EU that has decided to opt out of a new vaccine deal the bloc has signed with Pfizer and BioNTech for the supply of up to 1.8 billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, Reuters reports.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán explained the decision on Friday by claiming there are enough vaccines available in Hungary until the second half of next year. Meanwhile, a Hungarian vaccine would be ready and manufactured in the second half of 2022 at a plant now under construction in Debrecen. With domestic production “we can guarantee the safety of all Hungarians for decades,” Orbán emphasized.
Opposition Democratic Coalition was quick to slam the government for the move, saying it was clear that the Pfizer vaccine was the most popular jab in Hungary, as well as being the only vaccine that currently can be administered to children, while it also protects against most virus variants. DK MEP Klára Dobrev even sent a letter to Ursula von der Leyen asking the EC to keep EU vaccine procurement capacity for Hungary.
In reaction ruling Fidesz Communications Director István Hollik said:
“As soon as it became clear that we were not going to give 120 billion forints to foreign pharmaceutical multinationals, the Left immediately became furious and launched an offensive.”
Despite the government’s confidence in the country’s current supply of vaccines, in addition to the opposition, many Hungarian experts also criticized the decision.
The prime minister’s stance on the issue is wrong on every level and it violates our rights to health, former chief medical officer of Hungary, Ferenc Falus, who was also MSZP’s candidate for Budapest Mayor for a while, said in an interview.
The new contract between the EU and Pfizer is about the manufacturer’s improved vaccines, which are expected to be even more effective against new variants of the coronavirus, he said.
Ernő Duda, a virologist professor at the University of Szeged, also thinks it would be a mistake for Hungary to give up on the Pfizer vaccine.
“I really hope that this is a premature announcement and will change,” the professor told RTL Klub. Pfizer is the most cutting-edge and effective vaccine, which is also a historic milestone, Ernő Duda added.
The government’s announcement that Hungary will no longer order the Pfizer vaccine through EU procurement also surprised Miklós Rusvai.
According to the virologist, it is an effective vaccine, people have high confidence in it, and it can be used to significantly increase the vaccination rate.
Rusvai believes the Pfizer vaccine should be stored in the future available for purchase in order to maintain people’s willingness to vaccinate. The Orbán government’s target of six million vaccinated people is achievable, but it won’t be enough to avoid a fourth wave in the autumn, he said.
Featured photo by Attila Balázs/MTI