While Hungary is doing well in terms of rate of vaccination of the public, it underperforms in terms of vaccinations used, with a lot of doses still waiting in warehouses and the campaign also has its weak points. Due to these setbacks, Szombathely and Budapest’s (opposition-led) local councils have offered to set up additional vaccination points, which the central government refuses to accept.
At the moment, Hungary is maintaining its position as the second most-vaccinated country in the EU. In terms of the percentage of administered vaccines compared to the available (but still unused) ones, however, it is only 24th in the EU. On March 11th, Telex recently showed that while this tendency was improving, more than a third (34.71%) of the available vaccines have yet to be used and are currently in storage facilities.
In addition, the vaccination effort is sometimes characterized by chaotic circumstances, while vaccination points happen to be crowded and disorganized too.
FactOne year before the general elections, vaccination has definitely become a campaign topic in Hungary. Although virtually none of the opposition politicians has made any such statement, the Fidesz-led government still accuses the opposition (dubbed as the ‘left-side’) to be “anti-vaccination.” On the other hand, many on the opposition are accusing Fidesz of endangering human lives with incompetent organization and background deals, and minding only their political and material gain.
Szombathely: local GPs also want additional points
It was on March 10th when Szombathely mayor Dr. András Nemény reported that in cooperation with the Government Office and the Ministry, they would set up additional vaccination points in Vas county’s capital. This surprised many, given that Szombathely is now led by the opposition (although mayor Nemény is officially independent from any political party).
However, this project stagnated after Nemény recently reported that government bodies were unavailable and failed to turn up at the inspections before the new points could open to the public. The mayor suggests political reasons for the withdrawal and emphasizes that some other Fidesz-led municipalities apparently have more options and eligibility in the matter.
In response to the uproar, the government office on Friday accused Nemény of failing to provide staff for GPs for administrative tasks and joining the “left side’s anti-vaccination campaign.” Government officials also revealed that the city has some 41 vaccination points in operation, where tens of thousands had been vaccinated from across the county. Nemény denied that he wouldn’t be cooperative.
The city’s GPs, however, apparently side with Nemény’s position. In an open letter published after the aforementioned verbal conflict, they claimed they supported and needed the additional points. They stated they had already made it clear to the government back in February that their clinics were unsuitable for mass vaccination, therefore they fully agreed with the local council’s efforts (inoculations are being conducted either in central vaccination points, such as in hospitals or in GP practices- the oversight of these belong to the local councils). “Our commitment, professionalism, and conviction oblige us to ask for the opening of vaccination centers provided by the city, already furnished, and awaiting approval only by the Chief Medical Officer,” their letter reads.
Szombathely made headlines back on February 24th when many elderly were crammed
in and around one of the vaccination points. While the local government commissioner blamed the patients’ impatience, Nemény blamed the government’s organizational and administrative failures.
Meanwhile, LMP lawmaker Péter Ungár turned to the PMO Chief asking Gergely Gulyás whether after all this, “they could still say without laughing that for them all lives matter.”
Budapest: Karácsony appoints ten vaccination points
Besides Szombathely, Budapest would also “help out” in the vaccination process. It was the second time this Friday that the Budapest mayor addressed the government with a similar proposal. He has since revealed that the capital appointed (and made ready) ten vaccination points (four of them, for example, are placed in the Budapest-run thermal baths, one in the Városliget ice rink’s reception building) and would provide both the technical and manpower apparatus.
After the government’s reluctance, he switched to a tougher tone and criticized the government, suggesting they preferred to “mess with” local governments rather than prioritizing people’s health. “What is this arrogant, irresponsible stubbornness? (…) What kind of government is the one in which political interests override the interest of the nation?” he wrote on Facebook.
Gov’t: if current vaccination process works well, no need for additional points
Meanwhile, the government insists that the vaccination process is going just fine and smoothly, and they don’t need additional points. A state secretary at the PM’s office claimed that there were enough vaccination points in operation, and insisted that they would only leave the framework of the healthcare institutional system “if there would be a special reason.”
István György also insisted that all the incoming vaccines are (or would be) used, pointing out that the National Public Health Center needs to inspect all incoming shipments, which is a longer process. György also revealed that at this stage, there are some 5,500 vaccination points available, which would increase to 7,000 by the time of mass vaccinations.
featured photo illustration via Tibor Rosta/MTI