The vaccine efficacy table shared by the Hungarian government has stirred up quite a controversy, especially after news spread of a very similar table being shared by Russia two days prior. The two datasets, both displaying Sputnik V as a more effective and safer option than Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, have come under scrutiny by opposition politicians and scientists, who argue that they are misleading people and manipulating data.
The Hungarian government shared a controversial table on Sunday which displayed data in a manner that would make the Chinese and Russian vaccines appear more efficient and safer than those of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Notable individuals in the healthcare field, such as Katalin Karikó and Gábor Kemenesi, have pointed out that the table is missing key information without which it is misleading and uninterpretable.
Parliament Debates Hungary’s Vaccine Efficacy Table
During Monday’s meeting of the National Assembly, Tímea Szabó, co-leader of the leftist green Párbeszéd party, challenged the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, accusing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of abandoning the Hungarian people. She added that now even vaccine efficacy data is falsified, referring to Hungary’s table on vaccine efficacy.
State secretary of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, Csaba Dömötör, responded that the rate of vaccination determines when the country defeats the pandemic, and that the data shared by the government is factual.
Dömötör said the table regarding vaccines proves that every vaccine is effective, and that the opposition can no longer continue an “anti-vaccination campaign” statistically.
Russia Shares Similar Dataset Before Hungary
News has spread of another table made by the Russian Direct Investment Fund which looks strikingly similar to the one posted on the Hungarian government’s Facebook page, and shows the Russian vaccine as the best vaccine.
Sputnik V shared the table on its Twitter page, adding that “#SputnikV study shows that there are significantly more deaths following vaccination with Pfizer than with AstraZeneca vaccine per 1mn administered doses, based on official publicly available data by 13 international health regulators.”
The issue with this table is that it is not referring only to countries that use both Pfizer and Sputnik V. Among the 13 countries the table draws data from, Norway, Denmark, France, and the United States do not use Sputnik V, but they do use Pfizer. Thus, the results can be manipulated to inflate the number of Pfizer deaths, while Sputnik V cases do not increase.
Sputnik V Praises Hungary’s Vaccine Table
Sputnik V also made its own table visualizing the data shared by the Hungarian government, once again showing Sputnik V as the best vaccine, saying that “#SputnikV has the best safety (7-32 times fewer deaths cases) and efficacy (2-7 times fewer COVID infections) per 100,000 vaccinated.”
András Rácz, Senior Fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, responded to the coincidence of the two tables being shared one after another, saying that while the Hungarian dataset is slightly weaker in terms of its content, the Russian one is supported by methodology.
My naiveté knows no limits, so I strongly believe in coincidences, of course – however, this is probably a bit too much of a coincidence. On my worse days I may even think that there might be a correlation between the publication of the two datasets.”
New Comparison of Pfizer and AstraZeneca Efficacy
The Lancet shared a study in Scotland involving 1,331,993 vaccinated people and 3,077,595 non-vaccinated people. The large-scale undertaking compared the efficacy of Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca’s vaccine, employing a database that included information on vaccination, primary care, PCR test results, hospitalizations, and mortality rates.
The efficacy of the vaccines was measured 28-34 days after their inoculation, in order to allow for immunity to develop. The study found that Pfizer’s vaccine could reduce chances of hospitalization by 91 percent while AstraZeneca’s could do so by 88 percent. Both vaccines were found to be 83 percent effective on people above the age of 80.
Natalie Dean, an American Biostatistician specializing in infectious disease epidemiology and who did not take part in the study, wrote a comment on its results which was also published by The Lancet.
In her article, Dean emphasized that the study allowed for the two vaccines to be compared effectively since there were several important differences in their use: they were administered to different demographics, under different conditions and at different times. Dean emphasized that by involving millions of people, the study is reliable, and shows the effectiveness of the vaccines.
These assessments rely heavily on observational data, but with the strength of large numbers comes the limitations of bias. […] The benefits of these vaccines are substantial, and their rapid roll-out is an important achievement for public health.”
In the featured photo illustration: State secretary Csaba Dömötör. Photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI