In the past days, the government has stated several times that the gradual easing of restrictions in Hungary could only begin once at least 2.5 million people received their first jab, which, according to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s promise, could be reached by Easter. Based on official data on the inoculation rate, we take a look at whether Hungary will be able to reach this goal while also trying to find out why the government set this number as the target for reopening, far from the number required for herd immunity.
Orbán: 2.5 million will be vaccinated by Easter
Everyone registered for vaccination will have received it by Easter, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview on February 19th. The number was 2.5 million people at the time, which since then has increased significantly; however, it proved to be an important anchor point for the government.
Since then it was repeated several times: the prime minister’s chief of staff yesterday also mentioned reaching 2.5 million people vaccinated with the first jab nationwide as the most important condition for reopening, which could, according to him, happen the earliest on April 12th or April 19th the latest.
Therefore, the question of when could Hungary reach the marked vaccination goal is a rather important one.
The goal can be reached by April 10th
If we look at how many people have been vaccinated so far, and how many have received their first jab on average in the last week, we can get a picture of roughly when this will happen.
As of today, 1,803,533 people have received their first vaccine shot in Hungary. To have Viktor Orbán’s promise fulfilled and have 2.5 million vaccinated by Easter, on average, a bit less than 70,000 people should be vaccinated daily within the next 10 days until April 4th. Looking at official figures, this number was surpassed only four times since the start of Hungary’s vaccination campaign, and although in the past days the daily number of inoculations were consistently above 50,000, keeping that pace would still not be enough.
The average number of people vaccinated in Hungary in the last week was 46,568. Based on this, it would take at least another 15 days (by April 10th) to reach the 2.5 million vaccination milestone set out by the government, which is one week after Easter but still before the April 12th-April 19th time range Gergely Gulyás mentioned yesterday. Today, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán marked April 19th as the possible day of reopening.
Why is 2.5 million the milestone for the government?
Another noteworthy question: why would Viktor Orbán tie the start of the country’s reopening to 2.5 million vaccinated people?
It has long been argued by epidemiologists that a vaccination rate of 60-70% is required to achieve herd immunity. However, the goal set by Viktor Orbán is only 25% of the population of Hungary. If we add to this the estimated number of people recovering from the coronavirus, we still do not even come close to reaching a 50% immunity rate. However, even those “inoculated,” according to the government’s term, will not be fully protected.
For unexplained reasons, the government counts everyone who got the first dose as inoculated, even though two jabs and another 2-3 weeks are needed for full protection, so the full inoculation process takes almost 2 months from the first jab (in the case of the AstraZeneca protocol in Hungary, it is 3 months).
Epidemiologist and virologist experts when asked by news site 24.hu, unanimously said there is no medical explanation for the goal.
In their view, the ‘2.5 million goal’ do not cover age groups who need to be protected for a possible reopening.
Of course, it is likely that the government has set this target on the basis of mathematical models developed by experts, according to which, in addition to those vaccinated and those who have contracted the disease, factors such as positive impact weeks later due to severe restrictions will play a role.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the government is considering a multi-step opening. The initial easing announced today by Viktor Orbán will bring only some changes to people living in Hungary who have become accustomed to strict lockdown measures in recent weeks.
Another reason why the government might be trying to set precise and relatively achievable goals for the reopening is to further encourage peoples’ willingness to vaccinate in Hungary, thus reducing the time-frame for herd immunity.
Featured photo illustration by Tibor Illyés/MTI