The general introduction of a fourth vaccination is not justified in the current epidemiological situation, according to the professional opinions of Hungarian health experts. However, they consider other protective measures to be very important, such as free saliva tests, the obligation to use FFP-2 masks in public transport and indoors, reorganization of quarantine measures, and switching to an international vaccination card.
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Given the high numbers of unvaccinated people, the most important thing is to ensure as many people as possible receive the first and second vaccinations, and administer the third vaccination, which is needed to reinforce declining protection over time. They see the immediate introduction of a fourth vaccination as overburdening vaccination centers and primary care physicians, increasing the distrust of the unvaccinated in the effectiveness of vaccination, and distracting them from other important epidemiologic measures.
Experts consider the following measures more important than the introduction of a fourth vaccination: the mandatory use of FFP-2 masks on public transport and indoors, the provision of FFP-2 masks to those in need, and the provision of at least one free saliva test per week for people with an insurance card (TAJ number); limiting the number of indoor public events; creating conditions for “hybrid” teaching; reorganizing vaccination centers; reorganizing quarantine measures, and transitioning to an international vaccination card.
In mid-January, the government announced that a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine will be available to the entire adult population. Beginning January 15th, a fourth dose can be administered if at least four months have passed since the third vaccination and the patient’s primary care physician or vaccinator believes it is warranted. About 30 people, including a 102-year-old man, received the fourth vaccination at the Pécs clinic the next day.
Experts only recommend the fourth vaccination for the following groups:
- Immunocompromised or immunosuppressed due to illness or treatment
- Patients with weakened immune systems (e.g., persons taking immunosuppressive medications, transplant recipients, persons undergoing active treatment)
- Patients with cancer, weakened immune system, or HIV
- Individuals over the age of 60 who have received two Sinopharm vaccinations as basic immunization and who have subsequently been vaccinated with a Western vaccine
- High-risk healthcare workers (e.g., COVID ward staff) if they received the third vaccination more than four months ago and are elderly
While the current outbreak of Omicron is highly contagious, the third vaccination provides sufficient protection against severe disease, the experts’ statement said. There is not yet sufficient technical experience with the fourth vaccine, but initial data from Israel shows no additional protection against the new variant. (Israel was the first country in the world to introduce a fourth vaccination dose). The experts believe that a fourth vaccine will be needed if new antigen-targeted vaccines are introduced or if the characteristics of the epidemic change significantly.
Featured photo illustration by Tamás Vasvári/MTI