Hungary is initiating a ten-day mass vaccination program next week, as one million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine will be arriving. A letter from the National Health Insurance Fund (NEAK) and another from state secretary and leader of Hungary’s vaccination workforce István György was sent to general practitioners, informing them of the massive undertaking. While the government is trying out a new system for organizing Hungary’s vaccination campaign, many doctors are worried that their patients will not be willing to accept Sinopharm.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó announced on Saturday that instead of the expected 400 thousand doses, one million doses of the Chinese vaccine will arrive in Hungary by the end of April. In order to prepare for this, the government is ensuring that all currently available vaccines be put to use before the ambitious vaccination program begins.
Hungary’s GPs Preparing for Vaccination Campaign
In his letter, István György informed general practitioners that “In the middle of the week following the weekend of April 24-25, 2021, our nation will receive a larger number of Sinopharm-type vaccines.”
In the interest of using currently available vaccines as soon as possible, a mass vaccination phase is being introduced starting next week, April 26 to April 30, 2021, as well as the week of May 3 to May 5, 2021. This means we wish to use the nation’s entire vaccinating capacity – including general practitioners – in the vaccination process. (Saturday and Sunday, May 1 and 2, 2021, have already been designated as mass vaccination days by the chief medical officer.)”
György’s letter emphasizes that family doctors should ensure that all vaccines they currently have be used up this week, so that for the following two weeks they can focus entirely on the Sinopharm vaccines which will be arriving.
Priority for Those Aged 45 and Up
The letter from NEAK provides further details, instructing family doctors that they must ensure the vaccination of those 45 years old and older for next week, but younger patients with reservations can of course be vaccinated.
While the former priority age group was above the age of 60, NEAK’s letter emphasizes that this category must be broadened in order to ensure that family doctors can “call attention to the relevance of the vaccine, for those who are not present on this [vaccination list], and so that there is a larger group of people to choose from for vaccination.”
NEAK’s letter also informs family doctors that once they receive the list of people who they have vaccinated, they may filter out those who “have not registered and have not received it.” The organization asks GPs that they “find these patients and suggest that they register for vaccination with the Covid-19 vaccine.”
Many Hungarians Appear Unwilling to Accept Sinopharm
General practitioners were required to measure by Tuesday how many people they can vaccinate, and how many they need to send to a vaccination point.
According to Telex, the government had even offered to pay Budapest’s family doctors for every Sinopharm vaccination. The news portal has received multiple notices from family doctors in Budapest saying that their patients did not want to accept the Chinese vaccine.
While the government’s operative board later denied the allegations of promising money for Sinopharm vaccinations, the problem of many people not wanting the vaccine still stands.
One doctor told Telex that their patients keep bringing up the lack of authorization from the European Medicines Agency when they deny the Chinese vaccine. Another family doctor, Dániel Eörsi, says that he simply cannot recommend it. “Medically,” he says, “we are not really convinced about the vaccine’s effectiveness.”
Another doctor in Hungary’s Great Plain region said that young people are the ones who are less willing to accept Sinopharm’s vaccine, since they are less afraid of the virus, and are more likely to say that they only want Pfizer or Moderna.
UAE Makes a Case for Chinese Vaccine
Despite the many concerns have been brought up around Sinopharm due to the lack of available documentation, the United Arab Emirates has made a case for the vaccine. The Abu Dhabi Public Health Center announced that no one has died after receiving all “required” doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.
According to a study by their public health body, the Sinopharm vaccine is 93 percent effective in reducing hospitalization for Covid, and 95 percent effective in preventing the need for intensive care.
While no details were shared on testing other than their statement, the number provided is higher than what the United Arab Emirates previously reported of 86 percent efficacy, and higher than the efficacy rate of 79 percent presented by Sinopharm itself.
Complications Around Hungary’s Vaccine Program
A significant problem which stands in the way of family doctors preparing for Hungary’s ten-day mass vaccination campaign is a recent mix-up of ten thousand Pfizer vaccine shipments in Budapest. Multiple family doctors called up their patients to cancel their appointments because the vaccine simply did not arrive to the capital’s government office.
However, this is not the case, according to the government office, who said that many family doctors who had volunteered to put the vaccines to use “did not pick up the shipped vaccines, thus the government office will send them to those practitioners who are willing to undertake these vaccinations.”
The Hungarian government hopes to minimize the risks of such logistical issues by trying out an internet reservation system. István György announced in the operative board’s Wednesday press conference that those who have registered for vaccination will receive a text message with a code that will allow them to register on a website for a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday vaccination.
Featured photo illustration by János Mészáros/MTI