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Hungary’s vaccination program went into a state of chaos over the weekend due to miscommunication and a lack of organization. The government cancelled AstraZeneca vaccinations for those with chronic illnesses due to what it referred to as “synchronization problems.” Despite this, many people still showed up to their clinics and were inoculated. Some of them were individuals who did not have a chronic illness, but took advantage of the confusion in order to be vaccinated early, while others who did have a chronic illness were not vaccinated at all.

The government had initially planned to vaccinated 74 thousand chronically ill people under the age of 60 with the AstraZeneca vaccine, but announced the cancellation of the scheduled vaccinations just before they were set to occur.

Confusion After Government Miscommunication

The people who were among the 74 thousand chronically ill were sent a text message informing them of where they will be vaccinated on the weekend. After this initial message, the government sent out a second mass text message cancelling the appointments.

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People who went to their designated clinics were still vaccinated, despite the cancellation. One individual told Telex that a family member had received the cancellation, but, on the recommendation of their family doctor, still went to their vaccination point, and was inoculated.

When the news got out that people were still being vaccinated, long lines formed into the evening at those clinics which were still in operation despite cancellations.

Still, some clinics told their callers that they were not vaccinating people. When asked why, they simply repeated that this was what all clinics were instructed to do.

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The government’s coronavirus operative board later announced that despite the cancellation message, whoever was scheduled for vaccination would be inoculated if they went to their designated clinic.

Logistical Problems

According to liberal hvg.hu, one individual arrived at their designated clinic only to find out that they were not on the vaccination list. When they showed the staff that they had recieved a text message from Vakcinainfó, their information was recorded and they were promptly vaccinated.

Some clinics even called individuals requesting them to come in despite the cancellation.

Others were not as fortunate, and found the event rather confusing. One person told government-critical Telex that to get to their designated clinic, they would have had to travel almost 160 kilometers.

Meanwhile, multiple other informants told the news portal that there were people taking advantage of the confusion to get vaccinated early. According to their sources, these people did not have any kind of chronic illness and did not receive any kind of text message from Vakcinainfó.

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Olga Kálmán and Gábor Nemes, members of Hungary’s opposition social-liberal Democratic Coalition, received both the invitation and cancellation notifications from the government. Still, they went into their designated vaccination points and were inoculated.

Kálmán posted on her Facebook page saying that she was welcomed at the Gottsegen György Institute of Cardiology, where “everything was efficient, organized, and professional. Perhaps only the government should be kept out of the [vaccination] system?”

The Issue Persisted Throughout the Weekend

On Sunday morning at Szent Imre Hospital, those who were present informed liberal 444.hu that they had received both notifications from the government, but came to their vaccination points despite them. Some had been inoculated.

Among those who received the cancelled AstraZeneca vaccine were some who were not yet set to be vaccinated. Unfortunately, there were also individuals with chronic illnesses who showed up but were not inoculated.

One individual, registered for vaccination, told 444.hu that they went to their clinic one day after their scheduled time, had their information checked, and were then vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The 1.5 meters of social distancing was maintained in waiting rooms, where the individual said they did not need to wait more than 15 minutes. All areas were regularly disinfected.

Head PMO Gulyás Shares Plans for Hungary’s Vaccination Program

Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás told public Kossuth Rádió on Sunday that “there can be smaller disturbances in a logistical endeavor of this kind.”

Other than this, nothing was said to address the confusion and miscommunication that led to the events that unfolded over the weekend, Gulyás instead brought up Hungary’s excellent vaccination record and said that “despite what was shown in the media, the vaccination program did not stop for even a minute.”

The minister said that the people whos scheduled vaccination was cancelled would receive the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of next week.

So far it is unclear how many people were vaccinated over the weekend, how many people with a chronic illness were not inoculated, and how many unscheduled, unnotified people stood in to be inoculated with vaccines meant for those individuals with a chronic illness.

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It is also unclear whether the government will rethink its vaccination program, but an issue like this cannot be ignored. Hopefully there are less confusing alternatives being discussed by the operative board, which will maintain order and logistical clarity.

Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Máthé/MTI