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Booster Drive Continues in Face of Omnicrom, ‘Flurona’

Government

A boy is vaccinated with the pediatric version of the German-American Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty coronavirus vaccine at the Ferenc Markhot Hospital in Eger on January 11, 2022.

Photo by Péter Komka / MTI

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán listed pandemic defense among the top three “most important topics” for 2022, at an international press conference on Dec. 21, according to state news agency MTI.

Orbán said inoculations would remain Hungary’s front line of defense against the pandemic, adding that Hungary has over 2.4 million jabs of the Pfizer COVID vaccine and has ordered two million doses for 5-11-year-olds.

In its abundance of vaccines, Hungary has continued to donate doses to countries in greater need, with 530,000 AstraZeneca COVID jabs delivered to Bangladesh on Dec. 22, and 100,000 doses to Armenia on Dec. 29, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó reported on his Facebook page.

The first shipment of the childrens’ vaccines, containing 138,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 69,000 children, arrived in Hungary on Dec. 13, with second and third deliveries of 48,000 jabs, on Jan. 4 and 11. An additional 54,000 doses are due on Jan. 18, totaling in a delivery of 150,000 doses for the first month of the year.

Following the initial delivery of these special doses, the vaccination of children in Hungary began on Dec. 15, with 77 vaccination centers specially designed for them, according to koronavirus.gov.hu, the government website for coronavirus information.

While parents must register their children online before taking them to be vaccinated, those older than 11 can get their COVID jabs without making an appointment at inoculation points on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays this month, State Secretary István György, who heads the national vaccination working group, said on Dec. 23.

Without any prior registration, people can receive jabs between 2-6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday afternoons, and all day Saturday, from 10-6 p.m.

Vaccination Weekends

The head of the epidemiology department at the National Center for Public Health (NNK), Ágnes Galgóczi, added that in January, vaccination weekends would also be organized at GPs, who are obliged to devote one Friday and one Saturday to vaccinating patients at their practices.

However, in a letter to Minister of Human Capacities Miklós Kásler, the Hungarian Medical Chamber’s (MOK) General Practitioner’s Group wrote that the GP system is burdened by the obligation to organize these out-of-hours and weekend vaccination days.

According to MOK, an extremely small number of patients are expected to be vaccinated in any given practice, which could result in the unnecessary disposal of unused vaccines. The chamber urged the decoupling of vaccination activities from GP practices and specialist clinics, suggesting instead the establishment of vaccination and testing centers in each district.

Nevertheless, György reported on Jan. 11 that 135,000 doses had been delivered during the first weekend of the January drive.

The first cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus appeared in Hungary in December, and account for more than 29% of new infections as of Jan. 12. Despite being more contagious than other COVID variants, having spread rapidly through a number of European countries, there have been conflicting reports on the severity of illness it causes due to a lack of clinical experience.

Additionally, a new complex disease, which combines the coronavirus and influenza, was recently discovered in Israel. With Neumann Labs having identified the “flurona” dual-infection in Hungary, diagnostic laboratories will now perform an additional influenza test on all positive COVID-19 PCR tests. Despite these developments, the NNK reported that, as of Jan. 11, trace levels of the coronavirus in wastewater have stagnated.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of January 14, 2022.

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