Given the changing pandemic situation, the Operational Group and the vaccination team have decided to change the vaccination strategy in order to get as many people as possible to receive their first shot. Due to the stagnation of procurement in Brussels, Hungary has ordered enough Sputnik V and Sinopharm vaccines to vaccinate 3.5 million people, the doses of which so far received have been used to vaccinate registered people over the age of 60. Vaccination coverage in Hungary has been markedly different from the EU average since the second half of February and has recently jumped to the top of the European field. In recent weeks, Hungarians have received about twice as many vaccinations as other EU citizens.
Brussels’ responsibility for the fiasco of the vaccine procurement cannot be ignored
Vaccination of the Hungarian population against the coronavirus is progressing at a rapid pace, with 1,150,000 people already vaccinated. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly clear that EU leadership did not react in time and effectively enough to the public health crisis caused by the pandemic. Too few vaccines have been ordered by the bureaucracy in Brussels, and too late. Századvég surveyed how satisfied Hungarians are with the vaccination process in Hungary and what they think about Brussels’ responsibility for vaccine shipment in Europe.
Successful vaccination strategy in Hungary
The successful vaccination program is due to the coordinated application of several measures:
1. The basic requirement for speeding up the procurement of vaccines was to authorize products as a realistic alternative under their own authority. It is important to know that there are already 12 vaccines worldwide that have already been approved and used in particular states around the world. Brussels has so far approved three of them (the Oxford/AstraZeneca was the most recent, with a delay, after Hungary had done so), while Hungary has approved five. However, the products not approved by the EU but used in Hungary, are used in many countries around the world. Their clinical testing began as early as the summer of 2020, and they have also passed the examination of the Hungarian authorities.
It is true that the European Union ordered 2 billion doses of vaccine in 2020, but the largest amount was ordered from a product (CureVac) whose development and testing is lagging far behind.
It is also worth noting that, for example, the unapproved Sputnik V vaccine is currently used in more countries than Moderna, which has been marketed as the second product in Brussels.
2. The role of important professional and organizational decisions are significant in the success of the vaccination program, the first step of which was to change the vaccination strategy. In line with recent scientific findings, instead of reserving the second dose, Hungary has been striving since February to get as many people as possible to receive the first dose of a vaccine and has extended the administration of the second dose for a safe period. Meanwhile, the vaccination plan is currently running on several lines.
With the available capacities, vaccination of those under 60 has started – in parallel with the completion of vaccination of the elderly – and in addition to vaccination by general practitioners, vaccination centres have been set up in all major settlements.
Interestingly, in the first week of March, Hungary led Europe with the most vaccines administered.
Thus, the different vaccines (that can be administered to different age groups) available at the same time and the capacities of the healthcare system can be utilised better.
This outstanding performance was achieved by the healthcare professionals during the third wave with the number of cases towards its peak.
3. Last but not least, the attitude of the population, an essential factor of any successful vaccination program, should also be mentioned. The number of people registering for vaccination in Hungary is continuously growing and exceeded more than 3 million in March. As it is with children, adults having recovered from this disease recently cannot be vaccinated, and it is not recommended for some people suffering from severe chronic illnesses and those expecting a child, the above number is estimated to account for nearly half of the population. Surveys show that even more, the majority of the adult population is planning to get the shot, only postponing registration to a later date.
The third wave of the pandemic, primarily with the spread of the British virus variant, has regrettably convinced the undecided segment of the population of the importance of vaccination.
58 percent of respondents are satisfied with the way the coronavirus vaccination process has been progressing so far.
In contrast to several Western European states, anti-vaccination movement in Hungary have not been able to gain mass support, and the attitudes of opposition politicians against vaccines are only aimed at slowing down the vaccination program. The success of the Hungarian vaccination strategy is also perceived by the population. The survey of Századvég shows that
Brussels’ flawed policy has led to a shortage of vaccines in Europe
In terms of the number of doses administered per 100 inhabitants, at the beginning of March, the vaccination coverage (9.8) in the European Union is only in a good position compared to the world average (4.1) including the developing and underdeveloped countries, i.e., countries with modest opportunities, but lags far behind compared to Great-Britain (35.02) or the United States (28.3).
The leadership of the European Union had all the available tools to provide enough vaccines for the Member States, so it is difficult not to blame them for their poor decisions for the low vaccination rate. It is even more difficult to justify why Brussels is still putting pressure on countries that are accelerating vaccine procurement and vaccination programs within their own competence.
In Hungary, the number of vaccine recipients and the number of vaccines administered have increased significantly within the European Union
(14,8). Currently, Hungary shares the first three places with Malta and Denmark, using almost one and a half times as many vaccines as the EU average.
According to the survey conducted by Századvég,
52 percent of Hungarians hold Brussels responsible for the fact that few vaccines arrive in Europe.
In contrast, 37 percent believe that the European Union is not responsible for this problem. It is important to highlight that more and more EU Member States are following the Hungarian example. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in an interview with Bild that “neither Austria nor Denmark wants to depend solely on the EU vaccine strategy.” Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovic has announced the purchase of two million doses of Sputnik V vaccines. In addition, German Health Minister Jens Spahn believes that the Russian and Chinese vaccines could help Europe overcome the vaccine shortage.