The Hungarian government has published a controversial table which breaks down the number of infections and deaths after secondary inoculations with the vaccines currently in use in Hungary. According to this, Sputnik V is the most effective vaccine in use while Pfizer performs the worst. Accurate conclusions cannot be drawn from the table since it ignores multiple conditions that would level the playing field of its variables, and allow for the valid comparison of vaccine types.
Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás made a controversial statement during his April 15 press conference, asserting that the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine and the Russian Sputnik V vaccine are both better than any Western vaccine.
Gulyás reaffirmed his statement in last week’s press conference, saying that based off current data Sinopharm is better than Pfizer, and Sputnik V is the best of all vaccines in Hungary. He did not provide any of the data he mentioned.
Hungarian Gov’t Calls Into Question Pfizer’s Superiority
The Hungarian government shared a table on its Facebook page listing the various types of vaccines Hungary is currently using. With data drawn from December 26, 2020 to April 20, 2021, the table shared how many people have caught the coronavirus or passed away following their second inoculation, both in total and proportionately to 100 thousand vaccinated people.
According to the government, Sputnik V is the most effective vaccine both in regards to preventing infection with Covid and preventing death. Pfizer-BioNTech performed second worst in preventing the disease and worst in saving lives. China’s Sinopharm has, based on the Orbán government’s figures, also outperformed Pfizer in both categories.
Alongside the table, a statement was made appearing to disprove the opposition’s “anti-vaccination campaign.”
This post coincides with the government’s huge Sinopharm-campaign, during which it plans to vaccinate hundreds of thousands with the Chinese vaccine as soon as possible. However, hundreds of thousands of Pfizer-BioNTech doses are expected to arrive in the country in the coming weeks as well.
Based on current surveys, Hungarians’ trust in Pfizer-BioNTech (and Moderna) is outstanding, whilst Sinopharm is the least favored vaccine in the country. This could result in many people preferring to wait to be inoculated later with Pfizer instead of accepting (the also effective and lifesaving) Sinopharm during the current campaign.
On the official coronavirus information site, koronavirus.gov.hu, the government also stated, based on this table, that “more people get sick after vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, and two times as many people die than those vaccinated with Sinopharm.”
Unfortunately, this table fails to consider a number of conditions that would allow for the various types of vaccines to be compared on equal terms, and is therefore misleading.
Pfizer and Moderna’s phase three trials showed a 95 and 94.1 percent efficacy respectively in preventing the coronavirus for people with no prior Covid infection, and a CDC study
of 3,951 health care and essential workers found the vaccines to be 90 percent effective two weeks after their second inoculation. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been shown
to be 76 percent effective 15 days or more after the second injection, but according to the company, it is 85 percent effective in people above the age of 65. The Sputnik V vaccine is 92 percent effective according to the Lancet. According to Sinopharm’s developer,
the vaccine is 79.34 percent effective in preventing the coronavirus.
In order for such variables to be accurately compared, the data provided about them would need to be taken from relatively equal numbers of people, with relatively similar conditions in terms of health and age, and in the same span of time.
Varying Sample Size, Demographics, and Time-Span
The government’s table does not include the number of people vaccinated with each vaccine, how old they were, or what health conditions they had. It also ignores the condition of the pandemic at various points in time.
Pfizer vaccinations began in December for those who were at the greatest risk of the virus; healthcare workers, elderly people, and people with chronic illnesses. Moderna was initially used for people in elderly care homes.
Sputnik vaccinations only began in February, and Sinopharm vaccinations at the end of February. By starting in December, the table includes the data for the two months that neither Sputnik V nor Sinopharm had been in use.
Data also shows that in the most vulnerable, above 80 year old age group, Pfizer was used far more than both Sinopharm and Sputnik together.
Hungary’s Assertion on Vaccines Inaccurate
Pharmacist Szabolcs Dobson brought up that other than Israel, the United States, and countries in Western Europe, countries will often make assertions based on “incomprehensible data drawn from political daily newspapers and websites instead of serious studies.” This table is an example of one of those instances, he said.
We do not see that they would have considered the periods of vaccination campaigns (check the impact waves of the pandemic), the demographic, geographic, and health conditions of those vaccinated, the severity of the sickness, and its diagnosis.”
Data from the United States, Israel, and Serbia all show that claims that Pfizer would be less effective than Sinopharm are inaccurate. Having a population similar in size to Hungary’s, Israel has been primarily using Pfizer-BioNtech’s vaccine. With its two dose vaccinations reaching 3.4 million in March, only 907 people caught the virus after they were vaccinated.
The United States has been overwhelmingly reliant on Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. There, of the 77 million people who have been vaccinated, 5,800 were infected with the coronavirus, and 74 people died. This means fewer than 1 person passes away out of every one million vaccinated in the United States.
Hvg.hu shared the results of a Serbian daily called Blic, which included people who have received both jabs of a vaccine with those who have only been inoculated once. The study found that 2.3 percent of those who were inoculated with at least one shot of AstraZeneca caught the virus, 2.2 percent with Sinopharm, 1.8 percent with Sputnik V, and 1.1 percent with Pfizer.
The study also found that fewer people vaccinated with Pfizer were later diagnosed with lung infections, and none of them needed to be hospitalized.
At a time when multiple vaccines are in use, and the third wave is causing hundreds of deaths every week, it would be best not to question or raise doubts around the effectiveness of various vaccines. All authorized vaccines in Hungary are effective and can save lives.
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI