Despite the shrinking number of Hungarians who are hesitant to get vaccinated against Covid-19, general skepticism still surrounds the Russian and Chinese vaccines. Meanwhile, Hungarian experts are trying to dispel fear and convince people to get inoculated because every authorized type of vaccine helps to prevent serious illness and death, and mass vaccination would be essential for a safe reopening of the country.
Even though an earlier survey commissioned by the EC suggested that Hungary is one of the seven EU countries with a rejection rate of the coronavirus vaccine over 30 percent, according to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office’s most recent poll, the willingness of Hungarians to get vaccinated is steadily increasing, and by now, only one Hungarian in four rejects vaccination completely.
In spite of the melting skepticism surrounding the covid vaccination in general, the credibility of Russian and Chinese vaccines are still extremely low among Hungarians.
The Orbán government, while criticizing the EU for the slow rollout of Western vaccines, defends these vaccines, claiming that they have already been proven effective in other countries and it is in every Hungarian’s interest to get vaccinated. The Russian Sputnik V even received preliminary authorization from the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYÉI) last week well ahead of getting the certification from the European Medical Agency (EMA).
Reopening the country is conditional on mass vaccination- the Orbán government has been clear on this. So only once mass vaccination is accomplished can people “get their lives (or jobs) back.” According to the government’s statement, although it has not been worded this strictly, it seems that either people accept the Russian and Chinese vaccines, or wait many months until the Western vaccines are available and Hungary can reopen.
Experts say vaccines are safe
Meanwhile, many Hungarian experts started campaigning to dispel fear surrounding Covid vaccines.
Semmelweis University Rector Béla Merkely tried to convince those who are still uncertain whether to get inoculated in the government’s latest vaccination campaign video.
Merkely, member of PM Orbán’s coronavirus advisory group, said that the vaccine triggers the body’s immune system, which only in extremely rare cases causes significant complications, but can be cured. In contrast, the coronavirus infection could easily have very serious consequences, including need for ventilation, multiple organ failure, and even death, he stressed.
In an interview with ATV, virologist Ferenc Jakab, the former leader of Orbán’s coronavirus action group, stated that “if scientific facts and publications support the effectiveness of a vaccine, then there is no vaccine [available in Hungary] that we shouldn’t get inoculated with.”
According to Jakab, someone who is vaccinated likely won’t pass the virus to others; and vaccination might be useful even for someone who already had the disease before.
There is indeed a difference between first- second-and third-generation vaccines, but the biggest threat is if we catch the virus, become seriously ill, and get hospitalized,” Jakab emphasized.
János Szlávik, chief infectologist at the Center Hospital of South-Pest, also encourages people to put aside their distrust and get vaccinated as soon as they can.
Safety is not an issue, these vaccines extremely rarely have serious side effects, he said in President János Áder’s most recent podcast.
Responding to János Áder’s suggestion that due to the limited amount of vaccines it is currently not possible to choose from the different types, only to choose whether to wait until the summer for a Western vaccine or to administer a Chinese one within a few days, Szlávik responded that immunization as soon as possible is the right choice.
There is indeed a difference in effectiveness, but regardless if one vaccine is 95 percent effective, while another is only 80, both stop the epidemic, preventing serious illness and death.
Featured photo by Márton Mónus/MTI