‘R Number’ Drops, Vaccines Arrive, Herd Immunity Point Identified

Government

The China National Biotec Group’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine has been in use in Hungary (the first European Union country to adopt it) since February. More doses are to be ordered to make up for the shortfall caused by Johnson & Johnson’s decision to delay rollout of its Janssen jab.

Photo by Zoltan Tarlacz / Shutterstock.com

Outdoor dining will be allowed again after 3.5 million Hungarians have been inoculated against the coronavirus, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in a video message on Facebook on April 14.

“When we reach that mark, and I hope we can by the middle of next week, by Wednesday or Thursday, terraces can open, and we’ll get back a piece of our old lives,” Orbán said. The three millionth Hungarian had been vaccinated the day before he spoke, and as of April 21, the figure stood at 3.363 million.

Restaurant and cafe terraces expect to be safely reopened by the end of this week (April 23), the president of the Hungarian Catering Industry Association László Kovács told business daily Világgazdaság (Global Economy). If the weather is particularly good, they expect a lot of traffic. To bolster support for these businesses, the government say it has decided to order that the terrace fee be temporarily scrapped.

However, some still feel the easing of restrictions to be premature. After the government reopened all non-essential businesses once 2.5 million Hungarians had been vaccinated, the Hungarian Chamber of Physicians (MOK) said that an improvement in pandemic data and a reduction in the load on the healthcare system should be the condition for reopening, as opposed to milestones in the vaccination rate.

MOK said COVID vaccines offer “a reassuring, proven high level of protection only seven days after the second jab,” while protection is “only partial” before that and “offers a false sense of security.”

Dr. János Szlávik, the head of the South Pest Central Hospital’s infectious diseases department, said herd immunity would require 60-80% of the population to get the coronavirus vaccine. He said the public’s inclination to get inoculated wanes after some time, as seen in other countries, but that tendency could be countered with vaccination campaigns.

Past Halfway

According to a weekly survey by the Central Statistical Office (KSH), the percentage of Hungarians who have firm plans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or have already received their first jab stands at 59%, as of April 19.

Hungary’s chief medical officer Dr. Cecília Müller acknowledged the impact of the COVID vaccine rollout on improved pandemic numbers at a daily press briefing on April 20, according to koronavirus.gov.hu, the government’s official coronavirus website. On April 16, Müller highlighted that the reproduction number of the virus in Hungary has recently fallen under on. An “R number” below one means a single person with COVID will infect, on average, at most one other person.

Hungary got its first delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Janssen, which only requires a single jab, on April 13, the head of the epidemiology department of the National Public Health Center (NNK) Ágnes Galgóczi said, according to koronavirus.gov.hu. However, Janssen parent company Johnson & Johnson said that it had decided to “proactively delay the rollout” of the vaccine in Europe after becoming aware of an “extremely rare disorder” involving people with blood clots who got the jab.

In order to make up for the missed delivery of the Janssen vaccine, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said that Hungary would be bringing forward deliveries of Chinese COVID vaccines it had ordered, according to a video message posted on Facebook.

Meanwhile, nearly half a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech arrived in Hungary in the past two weeks, raising the total number of deliveries to over 2.1 million doses.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of  April 23, 2021.

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