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 stated then that Hungary could reach full inoculation by early Autumn, and advocated for the equal distribution of the Chinese Sinopharm, the Russian Sputnik V, the British Oxford-AstraZeneca, the America/German Pfizer-BioNTech, and the American Moderna vaccines.
Of course, none of Hungary’s vaccines are the same. When asked about their main differences, Szlávik said that while they differ in type, the varying effectiveness of vaccines is their most notable factor. He said that efficacy rates range from an 80 to a 95 percent chance of protection, with none of them having particularly strong side effects.
It is crucial to understand that although you might get a little sick, it is nearly impossible to develop severe symptoms if you are vaccinated, regardless of the type of vaccine. You will almost certainly not have to be hospitalized.”
Szlávik also brought up the element of the common good, that more people vaccinated means fewer people in hospitals, reducing the burden on Hungary’s healthcare system.
The virologist has stood by his position firmly, emphasizing that people need to get vaccinated as soon as possible in order for things to get back to normal. On April 10, Szlávik told public media that Hungary could achieve herd immunity by the summer, with around 60-80 percent of the population vaccinated.
At the time, 2.5 million people had received their first jab of a vaccine. Now Hungary’s single-dose vaccination rate has reached almost 3.7 million people, with more than 1.7 million receiving both jabs. That is roughly 37 and 17 percent of Hungary’s population respectively.
Danger of Mutations to be Overcome with Vaccinations
Miklós Rusvai is a popular virus researcher and professor who, like Szlávik, advocates for as many Hungarians to get vaccinated as possible. He even supports the reopening of terraces and thinks it would be a good idea to connect such things with immunity status, so that sporting events and pubs would be safer, and vaccination willingness would grow.
Rusvai has also defended Sinopharm’s vaccine, which has faced some controversy around Hungary and around the world. When it came into circulation in February, Rusvai stated that the Chinese vaccine using inactivated virus technology could prove beneficial against virus mutations.
While most other vaccines are estimated to lose 5-8 percent of their efficacy for select mutations, Sinopharm’s vaccine contains parts of the virus’ proteins, and according to Rusvai, this gives it a higher likelihood of maintaining its efficacy regardless of mutations.
“We Cannot Forget That There Is Still a Pandemic”
A virologist and Professor at the University of Pécs, Ferenc Jakab emphasized at the Miérted magazine’s online Facebook event that the vaccine is essential, but that it does not provide immediate immunity, and people should continue to be careful.
We cannot forget that there is still a pandemic in Hungary. The curve of the pandemic is waning, but it would be silly to reverse it with ignorance to current rules.”
Jakab also defended the AstraZeneca vaccine when it faced controversy after a few instances of fatal blood clots were reported following its use. Jakab backed the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) statement that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh its risks.
Posting to Facebook, the virologist stated that the the vaccine’s benefits increase the older and more vulnerable an individual is and that a conclusion by Europe’s healthcare professionals certified the continued inoculation of the vaccine.
Minimal Chance of Infection Following Vaccination
Gábor Kemenesi, adjunct professor at the University of Pécs, known around Hungary for his knowledge of the virus, emphasized at the same online event that every vaccine works.
We are not joking when we say that every vaccine is very good. There are a multitude of factors arguing that one is better than the other. The main takeaway is that all the vaccines are good.”
When asked about how many people fall ill after getting vaccinated, Kemenesi brought up that with 87 million vaccinations, the United States found that out of one million people vaccinated, 20 catch the virus and 5 are hospitalized.
The professor also said that people must remain careful even if they are vaccinated, remembering that they could still infect other people without noticing.
It is unlikely that the political element of the vaccination debate will end, but one thing is for certain: Hungary’s health professionals want Hungarians to get vaccinated.
It is not mandatory to accept a vaccine which is offered, but when making their decision, Hungarians should remember that the vaccines are on our side, the virus is not.
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI