After the third wave of the pandemic in Hungary was declared to have ended, the unavoidable question arose; will there be a fourth wave? Many of Hungary’s healthcare professionals seem to affirm that the pandemic is not over, and that the nation needs to be ready for the next round against the virus. Semmelweis Rector Béla Merkely, however, says we may have already reached herd immunity, and that in highly vaccinated areas, the virus will not stand a chance.
Immunologist Julianna Lisziewicz spoke on Spirit FM’s Aktuál show at the beginning of the month, emphasizing that viruses have a harder time spreading in the summer when everyone is outside, than they do when people are inside in colder seasons. Thus, when school starts in the Fall and everyone returns indoors, she is certain that the fourth wave will begin.
Immunologist Says the Hungary’s Fourth Wave Is Unavoidable
Lisziewicz does not believe Hungary can reach herd immunity if the coronavirus is able to spread from person to person, regardless of vaccination. While the vaccines protect the individual from getting sick, there is no information on whether they prevent infection.
The immunologist supports the vaccination of children in order to reach herd immunity. Also, Lisziewicz says the mutations of the virus could pose a significant risk, and vaccines must be strengthened to keep up with them.
My opinion is that the next wave cannot be avoided, however what can be done is a minimization of its impact, so that it is a relatively small wave rather than a relatively large one.”
Luckily there is optimism around the adaptability of vaccines. In an interview with Brain Bar, BioNTech Vice President Katalin Karikó said
that upon the identification of a stronger Covid variant, Pfizer-BioNTech can develop a new vaccine within six weeks. The pharmaceutical company is also in the process
of making vaccination safe for youths between the ages of 11 and 15, as well as children under 11. Teenagers between the age of 16 and 18 can already get vaccinated with Pfizer.
Vaccination Volume and Effectiveness Key to Herd Immunity
At a Portfolio conference, epidemiologist Beatrix Oroszi, head of Semmelweis University’s Epidemiological and Surveillance Center, and epidemic affairs advisor for the Hungarian government, said that it is probable that a fourth wave will hit Hungary.
Oroszi suggested Bahrein and the Seychelles as examples where, despite high vaccination levels, the pandemic was still able to rear its ugly head. Furthermore, in Great Britain, which has an exceptional number of vaccinations, the virus has begun spreading quickly because of the delta variant, previously known as the Indian variant.
Similar to Julianna Lisziewicz’s statement, Oroszi supports the vaccination of those aged between 12 and 15, since more people vaccinated means fewer chances for the virus to develop a stronger variant.
According to the epidemiologist, 75 percent of the Hungarian population would need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity against the original coronavirus strain.
She believes that a roughly 100 percent effective vaccine should be used on 80-85 percent of the population, and that everyone should be vaccinated with an 80 percent effective vaccine for protection against the delta variant.
She also supports the idea of revaccinating those who are already fully inoculated.
Another Vaccination for Good Measure
János Szlávik, the chief infectologist of the South Pest Hospital Center, told TV2 on Monday morning that it will be very difficult to convince those who have not yet been vaccinated to take up vaccination.
Still, reaching six million vaccinations will be an excellent milestone for Hungary on a European level, and there are people who are now accepting the vaccine, whether it is for the sake of protecting themselves or simply to access the immunity certificate.
Szlávik confirmed that the danger of the pandemic lingers, especially due to virus mutations. But the chances of someone being hospitalized after having been vaccinated twice are very low, minimizing the potential impact of a fourth wave significantly.
The infectologist is certain that somewhere down the line, a third vaccination will be necessary, and will likely be done with newer vaccines that can protect the individual from stronger mutations of the virus.
Pandemic Will Not Go Away Without Vaccination
It seems to be the baseline that in order to get rid of this virus, more people need to be vaccinated. Virologist Miklós Rusvai told Kossuth Rádió on Monday morning that the more people there are vaccinated, the lower chances there are of a fourth wave breaking out.
Rusvai emphasized that whoever is not vaccinated is risking those who are, since they may end up carrying new mutations of the virus. He argued that now, when the virus will die down for the next three summer months, time must be spent wisely with immunizations.
The virologist warned that the so-called Indian mutation, or delta variant, has a much stronger rate of infection than the British mutation, which had a brutal impact on Hungary when it hit.
Semmelweis Rector: There Will Be No Fourth Wave in Hungary
Rector of Semmelweis University Béla Merkely is confident that there will be no fourth wave in Hungary. On Sunday, Merkely spoke about how “here in Hungary we are with great likelihood getting close to reaching herd immunity, or have already reached it.”
Merkely clarified that this does not mean that those who have not been vaccinated cannot catch the virus. He warned that among such people, there will continue to be a risk of severe affliction and even death.
The rector believes the number of Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths will continue to be depleted, until, during the course of the summer, the virus “completely disappears.”
I am now confident that there is currently no mutation in the world which could in any way endanger humanity by getting around the immunity developed in our area through the great magnitude of vaccine use.”
It seems to be the case that most of Hungary’s healthcare professionals view this summer as a relative ceasefire from the coronavirus, during which we can get closer to herd immunity through vaccination, before anything bad happens in the Fall.
Featured photo illustration by Tibor Rosta/MTI