Starting next week, doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will begin arriving regularly to Hungary every week, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás announced. These vaccines may be needed to reach the ambitious milestone of 5 million vaccinations, as Hungary’s inoculation rate has significantly slowed down since the last opportunity for Pfizer vaccinations.
In the government’s most recent press conference, Gergely Gulyás said roughly 120 to 180 thousand doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be expected every week after next week. Among these would be 130-140 thousand Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses and 20-30 thousand Moderna vaccines doses intended for first inoculations.
200 thousand of the Pfizer vaccines which arrived recently have been set aside for second inoculations, while 130 thousand have been set aside for the inoculation of youths aged 16-18.
Considering that the vaccination of teenagers is set to start next week, it makes the next instance of mass Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination likely to happen not earlier than second half of May. However, it is entirely possible that online registration will open sometime next week, to achieve a more organized process than what the country saw last Friday. There is even a chance that these vaccinations could begin next week.
Currently, Sinopharm, Sputnik V, and AstraZeneca are available to everyone in Hungary, but it seems many are reluctant to accept them, preferring Pfizer or Moderna instead. Last Friday, when Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations were made available for a single day, vaccination centers became overwhelmed, with long lines of people (many of them unregistered) wanting to be vaccinated.
Since Friday, Hungary’s vaccination rate has noticeably dropped. While Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had expected a strong rate of around 150 thousand daily vaccinations, Between May 1 and May 6 Hungary was unable to pass the 130 thousand mark in total vaccinations.
This does not mean that Hungarians have simply stopped wanting to be vaccinated. It should be noted that the new demographic for first vaccinations is younger and healthier, and there is likely a greater preference for specific vaccines. Not only that, but it appears that young people simply do not feel like registering for vaccination.
An Ipsos study found that in April, only 24 percent of Hungarians aged 18-39 had registered for vaccination. Even among the pro-vaccination youth demographic, only 57 percent were willing to provide their information online for registration, compared to the 75 percent Hungarian average. Unlike younger Hungarians, 72 percent of those above the age of 60 indicated willingness for vaccination.
It should also be noted that those who had lined up in front of vaccination centers last Friday were recorded to be noticeably younger on average, which makes sense considering that most elderly people have received their first inoculations, and are probably less willing to put themselves at such a risk of catching the virus.
These factors give some reasonable answers as to why Hungary’s vaccination rate has dropped; most of the at-risk people who wanted to be vaccinated as soon as possible have been vaccinated, and younger people are waiting out the arrival of their preferred vaccines.
A lower vaccination rate while AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and Sputnik V are available compared to a sky-high rate of willingness for Pfizer when it is on the table can give some indication as to which vaccine many would prefer.
Still, Hungary is performing very well in vaccinations compared to the rest of the world. 50 thousand people were vaccinated in the last 24 hours, and Hungary has already inoculated 80 percent of everyone who has registered.
While PMO Head Gulyás did not specify how many weeks the upcoming Pfizer and Moderna shipments will be arriving for, it is likely that shipments spread over a longer period of time will hinder the chances of another chaotic inoculation situation overwhelming Hungary’s vaccination program.
Featured photo illustration by János Mészáros/MTI