Hungary’s vaccination rate is one of the best in the world, half of the Hungarian population has been vaccinated at least once. Unfortunately, vaccinations are slowing down, and we are not where we expected to be at this point. Previously the government set seven million vaccinations as the goal, but now that milestone has been lowered to six million. Not only are there a large number of people who do not want to get vaccinated at all, many registered individuals are postponing their inoculations.
According to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (KSH), roughly 1.5 million adults (18 percent of the population) in Hungary do not want to accept any kind of vaccine. To achieve herd immunity, Hungary would need at least 75-85 percent of its population to be vaccinated.
PM Orbán Overestimates Hungary’s Vaccinations
At the beginning of April, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán estimated that Hungary would reach six million vaccinations by mid-May, and seven million by the third week of May. This would have been great, but now at the end of the month, Hungary stands far from both these goals at five million 56 thousand first vaccinations.
The prime minister’s vaccination estimates were accurate for four million vaccinations by the end of April, but then the vaccination program slowed down. There are plenty of vaccines available, but the remaining people who are not vaccinated appear unwilling to do so.
These two graphs depict the state of the Hungarian vaccination plan. The upper graph shows second inoculations in blue, first inoculations in turquoise, and registrations in the darkest gray. The lighter gray shows the vaccination program’s vaccination goal, and the lightest gray shows Hungary’s total population.
The lower graph shows the total number of administered doses in turquoise, authorized vaccines in light turquoise, doses necessary for registered individuals in dark gray, and doses required for Hungary’s total population in the lightest gray.
By the middle of May, the goal was reduced to six million, which Orbán said “is completely up to the people alone, therefore it is their individual decision and responsibility to accept vaccination.”
Significantly Less People Registering
There are also significantly fewer registrations for vaccination compared to the initial traffic that the National eHealth Infrastructure (EESZT) website had. Orbán said “5-10 thousand people register every day; this is significantly less than what it was earlier.”
The 3 million people who are not yet vaccinated pose a risk too, the prime minister said,
Therefore, I ask everyone, especially these three million people, to take this situation seriously, and if there is one approach to it, if they can defeat their inner resistance, (…) or if they listened to the anti-vaccination opposition, they should put this aside. They should go now and get vaccinated, because in an epidemic three million unvaccinated people still pose a risk.”
Hungary Spends 16 Billion Forint Promoting Vaccination
The stagnation is strange, since 16 billion forint (EUR 46 Million) was invested into the government’s vaccination promotion campaign at the beginning of the month, but there have been no significant results.
Poland announced a million złoty (EUR 223 thousand) lottery for everyone who gets vaccinated, and Serbia is offering citizens 25 euros to get vaccinated, but Hungarian officials have stressed that it is about enough that the vaccine is free and protects the individual.
Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás said that “perhaps five and a half, if we are very optimistic, we could even reach six million vaccinations.”
Gulyás stated that the government estimates, once there is a difference of half a million people between registered and vaccinated for the first time, that that around 200 thousand more people will certainly get vaccinated at some point.
Hungarians Avoiding Second Vaccinations
Unvaccinated people are not the only ones not being vaccinated. More than 1.5 million vaccinated Hungarians have not received their second inoculation, and according to 24.hu, tens of thousands of these people simple do not want their second vaccination.
These people allegedly feel this way either because they already have their immunity certificate, because they felt that the side effects were too severe, or because they fell ill before the second dose would have been effective. It may be a problem that benefits are already provided after first vaccinations, since this does not guarantee full immunity, especially if the individual chooses not to be vaccinated a second time
Plenty of Vaccines Available in Hungary
Even in the dwindling vaccination rate of last week, the vast majority of first vaccinations (257 thousand) occurred with Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine. 30 thousand occurred with Moderna, 28 thousand with Janssen, 24 thousand with Sinopharm, and 20 thousand with Sputnik V. 2,300 AstraZeneca doses were administered, primarily for second inoculations.
Despite having imported 4 million 500 thousand doses of Sinopharm, there have only been 1.5 million inoculations, while 3.3 of the 3.5 million imported Pfizer doses were administered.
There are roughly half a million registered individuals who have not yet been vaccinated. Considering that every kind of vaccine is available now, their reasoning is likely that they are waiting for an offer of a type that they prefer, that there are no more available vaccination times, or that they are simply choosing to be vaccinated later.
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI