Left-wing and liberal commentators accuse the government of acting irresponsibly, by promoting Russian and Chinese Covid-19 vaccines. Pro-government pundits, on the other hand, accuse the opposition of hindering the fight against the pandemic, in the hope that more death and economic slowdown will help them win the 2022 election.
Hungarian press roundup by budapost.eu
Background information: on Thursday, the Hungarian government announced that the use of the Russian Sputnik V and the British-Swedish AstraZeneca Covid vaccines had received preliminary authorization from the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYÉI), while they still await certification from the European Medical Agency (EMA). On Friday, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announced in Moscow that Hungary had purchased two million ampoules of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia. Opposition parties said the government should wait until the EU approves such vaccines, before they are administered in Hungary.
According to a poll published by the Hungarian Central Statistical Office on Thursday, the willingness of Hungarians to get vaccinated is increasing steadily, and by now, only one Hungarian in four rejects vaccination completely. An earlier survey, commissioned by the EC, suggested that Hungary is one of the seven EU countries with a rejection rate over 30 percent.
Népszava’s András Boda accuses Prime Minister Orbán of putting PR before the safety of Hungarians. The left-wing columnist suggests that the government expedited the purchase and authorization of the Russian vaccine in order to pose as heroes in the fight against the pandemic. Hungarians, however, have serious concerns over Chinese and Russian vaccines, and demand more information, Boda writes. Unless the government provides evidence that reassures the sceptics, Hungarians will not want to get vaccinated, he concludes.
In Élet és Irodalom, Mária Vásárhelyi lambasts the government for not publishing details of the vaccine purchase deals. The left-liberal sociologist thinks that the lack of transparency feeds into anti-vaccination skepticism. The government, she writes, has so far failed to provide evidence that the Russian and Chinese vaccines are safe. She also finds it disgusting that Prime Minister Orbán uses the vaccination to criticize the EU by claiming that Israel and the UK are way ahead in the vaccination race. She adds that the same Fidesz politicians who in 2009 boasted about rejecting vaccination against the H1N1 flu outbreak, are now accusing the opposition of spreading anti-vaccination views.
444.hu’s Zoltán Haszán suspects that the Hungarian government is blaming the slow delivery of vaccines on the EU, in order to divert attention from the fact that Hungary’s Covid death toll is among the highest in the EU. The liberal analyst dismisses the government view that the EU has been slow to purchase and authorize vaccines. If the EU had not agreed on joint purchase, Hungary would get vaccines even later, Haszán believes.
Magyar Nemzet’s Ottó Gajdics agrees with the government that the EU’s vaccination project has been a disastrous failure. The pro-government commentator thinks that vaccination in Europe will slow down even more as US President Biden wants to expedite the vaccination of Americans. He accuses the opposition of engaging in a ‘death campaign’ by suggesting that Russian and Chinese vaccines are unsafe. Gajdics goes so far as to suggest that the opposition wants to use the high death toll resulting from anti-vaccination sentiments to lay the blame at the government’s feet.
In the same daily, Constitutional Court Justice Béla Pokol dismisses claims that Hungary is performing worse in the coronavirus battle than other EU countries. The conservative lawyer contends that the opposition wants to boost its popularity by suggesting that the Hungarian government failed to protect lives. He also dismisses suggestions that the Russian and Chinese vaccines are unsafe, noting that millions have so far been inoculated with one or other. Pokol suggests that the opposition wants to slow down the vaccination process, in the hope that the deeper the economic crisis, the bigger their chances at the 2022 Parliamentary election.
In Magyar Hírlap, Ferenc Brém-Nagy wonders if the opposition parties will also label Chancellor Merkel a traitor to the EU. The pro-government commentator recalls that Angela Merkel has called for the swift authorization of the Sputnik V vaccine after it was announced that Western vaccines will reach Europe slower than was originally hoped. Brém-Nagy finds it sad that the opposition, in his view, is creating an ‘alternative reality’ and uses the coronavirus pandemic to increase its popularity, by any means.
Featured photo illustration by Tamás Vasvári/MTI