Hungary’s vaccination centers have been facing backlash ever since photos surfaced of how crowded certain clinics can get at times. Independent member of parliament Ákos Hadházy, known for frequently challenging the government, has asked officials to share relevant information on how many people were infected with Covid after being vaccinated, but he has not received a direct response.
A long line of people was seen in front of Semmelweis University’s Városmajori Heart and Vascular Clinic on Monday. The line of at least 500, mostly young people extended all the way to Gaál József Street. Among them were healthcare workers, emergency responders, teachers, and expectant women, awaiting their vaccination.
Apparently a large number of short-lasting Pfizer vaccines had arrived to the clinic, and in order to ensure their use, more people were called to be vaccinated than normal.
Military personnel were also present to maintain order, telling people that if they were not on the vaccination list they should not even try to enter. This statement was of course necessary following the weekend of chaos which took place in March, where the lack of organization led to multiple unregistered people being vaccinated.
Despite Hungary’s exceptional vaccination rate, the situation with vaccination centers needs to be discussed.
Do People Catch Covid at Vaccination Centers?
After seeing how crowded clinics can get, Ákos Hadházy attempted to find out how many people catch Covid after being vaccinated. He asked chief medical officer Cecília Müller “among the people who have been vaccinated how many caught Covid in the last three weeks (since February 10, 2021)?”
Hadházy has emphasized that he is pro-vaccination, but that he believes there are serious problems with Hungary’s vaccination procedures, and that vaccination centers are hotspots for the virus due to them being crowded.
Müller responded to Hadházy one month after he sent her his question. She stated that the operative board informs the country on coronavirus information, and the government informs party representatives in the National Assembly. She did not answer his question as it related to vaccination centers, but instead told him to write up a formal question for the government if he wanted further information.
Hadházy has written such official questions in the past, but has not received an effective response. The representative wanted answers to this crucial question because Hungary had faced continued increases in Covid cases despite having one of the best vaccination rates in the world.
While Hungary’s single-dose vaccination rate is much higher than the European Union average, the number of daily confirmed cases in the EU is significantly lower than Hungary. One answer for this correlation may be found in the crowded environments of Hungary’s clinics.
Opposition MPs Show Photos of Crowded Clinics
Hadházy has shown what the state of vaccination looks like in Hungary multiple times. In Early February, he showed the crowdedness inside a Kistarcsa hospital.
I did not want to believe it, but it appears to be true: Hungary is herding and cramping elderly people into a closed, narrow hallway for their vaccination.”
A similar post was made at the end of the month, at a vaccination center in Baja with a similar situation; a large crowd of people in close proximity to one another funneling into the small entrance of a hospital.
According to Bácskai Horizon, around 400 people above the age of 70 had been given a time slot before noon, and because of this, certain people needed to wait in 3-4-degree weather, with constant crowding inside and out.
The independent MP noted that “it is no accident that in the West mass vaccinations are organized in large stadiums, open areas and churches, maintaining social distancing, and ensuring humane conditions.”
A more recent instance of such conditions was shared by left-liberal Democratic Coalition representative Sándor Katanics. Katanics shared photos of Veszprém’s Csolnoky Ferenc Hospital saying, “I have been notified by doctors and medicine students that the number of newly vaccinated people catching Covid is increasing.
Vaccination Does Not Give Immediate Immunity
It is well known that upon vaccination, an individual does not develop immunity immediately. Current findings show that for second doses, Pfizer takes 7 days for immunity, Moderna, Sinopharm, and AstraZeneca take 14-15, and Sputnik takes 14-21.
Some studies show that after the first jab of a vaccine, an individual can develop a certain level of immunity within 2-3 weeks. The Hungarian government has been relying on this in its new vaccination approach, aiming to vaccinate more people to get closer to relative herd immunity.
Romania has provided evidence that it is possible to catch the virus after going to get inoculated. Valeriu Gheorghita, coordinator of the country’s vaccination campaign, has stated that out of its two million vaccinated people, 13,416 caught the coronavirus after they received their first dose of the vaccine, and 1,859 caught the virus after their second inoculation.
More Vaccination Centers Required?
A potential solution could be to open more vaccination centers around Hungary, in order to avoid sudden crowds at specific locations. Opposition representatives have called for this, but consensus is difficult to be found, since government officials criticize opposition ideas as “anti-vaccination”.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has stressed that the reason for Hungary’s vaccination pace (which is still the second best in the EU) is not the lack of vaccination centers, or the lack of organization in vaccination, but rather the lack of available vaccines.
Hungary has many vaccination centers, but the problem so far has been the sudden crowdedness at specific times in specific locations, upon the arrival of a large number of vaccines. This is understandable since, upon being opened, vaccines can no longer be stored or transported elsewhere, they must be put to use. Furthermore, vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna must be stored at extremely cold temperatures in order not to jeopardize their quality.
Featured photo illustration via Sándor Katanics’ Facebook page