Fifth Wave Recedes in Face of High Vaccination Rates

Government

The German-American Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty coronavirus vaccine is prepared for use at the Dorottya Hospital in Nagykanizsa (214 km southwest of Budapest), on March 23, 2022.

Photo by György Varga / MTI

The fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic has receded, largely due to the high vaccination coverage, according to the official government website for coronavirus news, koronavirus.gov.hu.

To celebrate the success of the vaccine in returning society to a relative sense of normalcy, the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) issued a commemorative coin on March 10, acknowledging the Hungarian invention that provided the basis for messenger RNA vaccines. The rectangular collectors’ coins display the names of the Hungarian, American and Canadian scientists who played instrumental roles in the research and production of the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines: Katalin Karikó, Ian MacLachlan, Norbert Pardi and Drew Weissman.

At the time of print, the number of vaccinated people in Hungary stood at just over 6.4 million. Some 60% have already received their booster jab, while another 239,000 have applied for a fourth dose. The government website suggested those who received their last jab more than four months ago get a third dose, adding that five vaccines, Pfizer, Sinopharm, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen, were available to choose from at hospitals.

It also emphasized that vaccinations continue to be provided at hospital checkpoints, GPs, and pediatricians, with vaccination action days continuing every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in March. Of the 30 million vaccines doses received thus far, more than 16.6 million doses have been administered as first, second, third and fourth vaccinations.

Donations Abound

However, in its abundance of vaccines, Hungary has also donated a significant number of doses to countries in greater need around the world. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said in a post on Facebook on March 10 that Hungary was donating another 523,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Vaxzevria vaccine to Cambodia, bringing the total number of COVID jabs Hungary has donated to Cambodia to over one million.

Hungary also donated 156,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Vietnam, Szijjártó said on Facebook on March 17. Szijjártó noted that Hungary had earlier sold 400,000 and gifted 100,000 AstraZeneca jabs to the Southeast Asian country, bringing total vaccine deliveries there to 656,000. In total, Hungary has delivered close to five million COVID jabs to 18 countries, he added. The government has also been providing coronavirus vaccines to refugees from Ukraine.

Indeed, as one epochal global crisis appears to be waning, another has readily appeared to take its place in the form of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in the early hours of February 24. Some businesses facing labor shortages, for instance, now expect that the situation will be even more serious, according to the Institute of Economics and Entrepreneurship of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GVI). According to their survey, only 7% of companies expect an improvement; 52% say there will be no relief, and 41% fear an even more significant labor shortage than at present.

Meanwhile, around three-quarters of Hungarian companies expect the war in Ukraine to negatively affect business, according to a survey by economic research institute GKI conducted between March 4-18. Around 26% of companies expect a “very negative” impact on business and 46% a “moderately negative” impact. In contrast, roughly 27% don’t expect the conflict to have a “tangible effect” on business for the time being; 57% of companies in business services don’t expect it to have much of an effect on business at all.

While industrial companies were the most concerned, companies in the construction and commerce sectors were less so. As this crisis has overtaken COVID in terms of its acute effects on Hungary’s businesses, economy and society, this column will be shifting its focus to weekly updates on the conflict in Ukraine.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of March 25, 2022.

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