Weekly newsletter

The flaws of the vaccine efficacy table shared by the government are now being exposed by experts around Hungary. Government officials have decided, despite the controversy, that they will stand by the alleged validity of their dataset.

The table’s initial statement revolved around proving the government’s point that the Chinese and Russian vaccines are better than Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, but its information has not been presented in a way that allows for such a comparison to be made. Now Hungarian scientists and economists have shared their takes on why such a table should not be taken seriously.

Gov't Publishes Controversial Data to Prove Sinopharm and Sputnik Better Than Pfizer
Gov't Publishes Controversial Data to Prove Sinopharm and Sputnik Better Than Pfizer

According to the government, Sputnik V is the most effective vaccine both in regards to preventing infection with Covid and preventing death.Continue reading

Efficacy Table Does Not Provide Context on Vaccines

It did not take long for Katalin Karikó, a developer of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, to respond to the post made by the government and highlight its lack of context.

Hungarian BioNTech Scientist Corrects Gov’t Table on Vaccine Efficiency
Hungarian BioNTech Scientist Corrects Gov’t Table on Vaccine Efficiency

Katalin Karikó said the table should share more details, without which the information provided is "completely misleading."Continue reading

Biostatistician Tamás Ferenci told Telex that the table is a disgrace, and that he hopes only politicians took part in its creation, as it would otherwise paint a terribly negative picture of Hungarian healthcare.

Ferenci is most frustrated by the fact that the methodology of the information shared by the table is not clear. It cannot be known which vaccinated age group was analyzed, and how many of the people who received specific vaccines had an underlying illness.

Fact

Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine has been used since the beginning of Hungary’s vaccination program, on Hungary’s oldest age group with higher instances of chronic illness. Sputnik V and Sinopharm vaccinations began in February on younger demographics with no serious illnesses.

Professor E. Sylvester Vizi: “Every vaccine in Hungary is effective and saves lives, everyone should get vaccinated with what is offered”
Professor E. Sylvester Vizi: “Every vaccine in Hungary is effective and saves lives, everyone should get vaccinated with what is offered”

“It is a mistake to create artificial doubt in people because it reduces their willingness to be vaccinated,” the pharmacologist said.Continue reading

There are relevant, trustworthy datasets, such as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System in the United States. This report provides details such as when individuals were suffering from certain symptoms after vaccination, whether those symptoms were related to Covid, whether the individuals were infected following their first or second inoculation, and how many of them passed away.

Medical Chamber Highlights Methodology Issues

The Hungarian Medical Chamber (MOK) responded to the Hungarian government in an open letter, in which it stated that “in its current form, this data is not suitable for determining the efficacy differences of various vaccines.”

The Chamber highlighted the methodology issue of the table as well, saying that it is a mistake to treat first and second vaccination data together and to not consider that the health of people vaccinated with various vaccines differs. They also emphasized that the table ignores the time differences of various vaccines’ use and the variance in age of those who were inoculated with different vaccines.

Health Professionals: All of Hungary's Vaccines Are Effective!
Health Professionals: All of Hungary's Vaccines Are Effective!

Professors, virologists, and virus researchers around Hungary continue to emphasize it; all vaccines authorized in Hungary are effective. Chief infectologist of the South Pest Hospital Centre, virologist János Szlávik sat down with Hungary Today at the beginning of the year to discuss vaccination and the race against the coronavirus. Chief Infectologist: Herd Immunity Needed Szlávik […]Continue reading

MOK requested the operative board to allow professionals to research available datasets on vaccination, since it would be ideal to fully understand the immune response developed by various vaccines and to figure out the best way to use various types of vaccines.

Hungarian Economist Clarifies Vaccine Statistics

Popular Hungarian economist Viktor Zsiday said that the purpose of the table is clearly to argue that Eastern vaccines are better than Western ones, but that it is completely unfit to prove such a point.

Let us imagine that 100,000 people received both shots of one vaccine over the course of a year, and until today 10 have gotten sick. Meanwhile, people have been receiving both doses of another vaccine for only a week, and 5 of them got sick. Can we then conclude that the vaccine which was tied to 5 infections is more effective? Obviously, not, since in the first instance there was a year for potential infections to show up, in the second there was only a week.”

Zsiday added that even more differences are generated when considering that the two vaccines were used on different age groups with different underlying illnesses, and the pandemic situation may have been very different during certain periods when one of the vaccines was in use.

Opposition Slams Gov't for ’Trying to Undermine Trust’ in Western Vaccines
Opposition Slams Gov't for ’Trying to Undermine Trust’ in Western Vaccines

"I will file a criminal complaint against the government for scaremongering," Independent MP Bernadett Szél announced.Continue reading

The economist said that more research is required which involves the same period for different vaccines, as well as an analysis of those vaccines on people with comparable conditions. He emphasized that this is not an opposition-based battle of numbers.

It is in the interest of every Hungarian to know how well these [vaccines] work, since this is what will determine whether we can avoid a new wave in the fall-winter period.”

Mathematician László Mérő made a satirical imitation of the table, changing the different vaccine types to magazines for various age groups, and showing that “whoever wishes to live,” should read one over the other. Making fun of the government’s efficacy table, he suggests that those who want to live for many more years should read youth and child magazines, while the life prospects of those reading Pensioners’ Magazine are not too bright.

Government Officials Stand By Their Statement

Despite the negative reaction it has generated among professionals in the field of both statistics and medicine, government officials have voiced their support for the vaccine table published on the government’s Facebook page.

Minister of Justice Judit Varga said that every part of the dataset is understandable, while Minister of Innovation and Technology László Palkovics said that professionals should not criticize such statistics.

Gov't and Opposition Accuse Each Other of being 'Anti-Vaxxers' and Undermining Trust In Vaccines
Gov't and Opposition Accuse Each Other of being 'Anti-Vaxxers' and Undermining Trust In Vaccines

The battle over Eastern vaccines continues in Hungary. The government has long been calling the opposition the ’anti-vaccination Left’, but it seems now the opposition parties have also decided to retaliate.Continue reading

Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás said that the table does prove that Sinopharm and Sputnik V are better than Pfizer’s vaccine, and that “naturally any allegation can be argued, if we look at the numbers then this [argument] is factually true.”

Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI