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From one vaccine to another: Hungarians soon to get their fourth jab?

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Hungary – After being the first European country to (proudly) announce third vaccine injections against Covid-19 as of 1 August, Hungary may soon become the first country to have a significant number of people with four jabs.

This time, the move is not based on supposedly medical considerations, but is a consequence of geopolitical factors, with differences among countries in terms of the vaccines that are accepted.

Source : European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Indeed, in order to vaccinate its population as quickly as possible, the Hungarian government has endeavoured to order all kinds of vaccines: the “Western” ones (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Janssen) as well as the “Eastern” ones (Sinopharm, Sputnik V). The decision taken by the Hungarian government, which has been criticized in the West, has enabled the Hungarian authorities to obtain the necessary quantities of vaccines to launch their vaccination campaign as quickly as possible.

Such abundance of vaccines, and the fact a vaccine passport and discriminating measures against the unvaccinated were announced as soon as December 2020, enabled Hungary to rapidly become, during the spring, the EU country with the highest rate of vaccinated people after Malta.

However, it can now be seen that the number of people who want to be vaccinated in Hungary has reached a ceiling that has remained stable for several months, at about two-thirds of the adult population.

At the same time, the policy of acquiring a large range of vaccines is now likely to cause some difficulties at a time of partial (and probably temporary) reopenings.

Indeed, a number of EU countries do not accept Sinopharm and Sputnik V jabs, which means that people who have been vaccinated in Hungary with these products are considered by the authorities of a number of European countries, such as France, to be unvaccinated.

Indeed, the European vaccine passport (unlike the Hungarian vaccine passport, which is a card the size of a bank card) indicates which type of jab a person has received, and its QR-code can thus be rejected by readers in countries that do not accept a particular vaccine. While Hungary has managed to have its card recognised by certain countries, including neighbouring countries (Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic) and more distant ones (Bahrain, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Turkey), for other countries some people vaccinated in Hungary may encounter difficulties.

Probably because of this, Hungary has silently stopped ordering the Russian Sputnik V, but continues to have substantial stocks of Chinese Sinopharm doses, perhaps counting on a recognition sooner or later of the validity of this vaccine, or not wanting to offend China, which has become an important partner for Hungary in recent years.

It can also be noted that Hungary, unlike other European countries, not only accepts the six vaccines it administers to its population, but has also just recognised the Indian vaccine “Covaxin”.

Among the “pragmatic” (and therefore non-medical) arguments in favour of a third jab in Hungary, some have suggested that receiving a dose of Pfizer in addition to, for example, Sinopharm or Sputnik V, would make it possible to receive their EU vaccine passport.

Except that, unfortunately, one more jab will not be enough. Two injections of a vaccine acknowledged by the European Medicines Agency are needed (except for the Janssen vaccine, which requires only one injection).

Within a few weeks, Hungary could therefore very well have people with four jabs. Loving it means getting it without limits…

Possible combinations

For the third jab, the Hungarian authorities recommend a vaccine cocktail. Thus, the third injection will be different from the first two. Here are the possible combinations:

  • Those who have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca may receive for their third jab: Pfizer, Moderna or Sinopharm;
  • Those who have been vaccinated with Janssen may receive for their next jab: Pfizer, Moderna or Sinopharm;
  • Those who have been vaccinated with Moderna may receive for their third jab: Sinopharm, Janssen or AstraZeneca;
  • Those who have been vaccinated with Pfizer may receive for their third jab: Sinopharm, Janssen or AstraZeneca;
  • Those who have been vaccinated with Sinopharm may receive for their third jab: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Janssen;
  • Those who have been vaccinated with Sputnik may receive for their third jab: Pfizer, Moderna or Sinopharm.

Available stocks

According to Index, the following vaccine stocks were available in Hungary at the end of July:

  • 3,067,650 Sinopharm
  • 2,336,024 Pfizer
  • 1,325,638 AstraZeneca
  • 398,370 Moderna
  • 389,596 Janssen
  • 175,740 Sputnik V