Hungary approves China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

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Hungary’s National Food and Drug Safety Institute gave an emergency approval to the Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, which could speed up the country’s immunization process, health officials said over the weekend.

National Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller said on Sunday that the Chinese vaccine is formulated to contain a complete, inactivated virus, eliciting a strong immune response. She noted that Hungary’s own vaccine development also chose this technology, meaning that if the virus changes, this technology will later allow more room for maneuver.

Four batches of the Sinopharm vaccine have so far arrived to Hungary and, following emergency approval, each one must be released by the National Public Health Center on a batch-by-batch basis. In all cases, the documentation sent by the manufacturer should be compared with the results of an independent study, the chief medical officer said.

Meanwhile, Hungary is seeing a fresh rise of coronavirus cases, indicative of a third wave. According to the latest official data, 47 patients died and another 2,912 citizens were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection. The government portal wrote that the number of active infected people is 82,103, with 4,233 people in hospitals and 366 of whom are on ventilators.

Müller told the public media on Sunday that the number of thousands of cases per day has doubled overnight, and we are in the ascending phase of the third wave. She said that 445,535 people have been vaccinated so far in the country, 190,705 of whom have already received the second vaccination.

Müller said that 322 cases of the British mutant have been detected in Hungary, whose infection rate was 70 percent higher than before.

István György, the head of the vaccination working group, told the public media on Saturday that it is possible to administer more than 465,000 vaccinations against the coronavirus in two weeks from Wednesday.

During the week, general practitioners  will receive 275,000 doses of Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines, the former for chronic patients without age group restrictions, and the latter for chronic patients aged 18 to 59. In addition, general practitioners can refer groups of ten elderly patients to hospital vaccination points where they will receive the Pfizer vaccine.

So far, 550,000 doses have been distributed from the Sinopharm vaccine and 46,000 from the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Another 500,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine are expected after March 15. Müller emphasized that all the vaccines available in Hungary are safe, as more than 10 million doses of each have been administered worldwide, he added.

János Szlávik, chief infectologist of the South Pest Central Hospital, told the public media on Saturday that the willingness to vaccinate has increased in recent months, but some people have reservations about vaccines from different places. He stressed that while there are differences in the effectiveness of the vaccines, but all of them will prevent vaccinated people from being hospitalized or dying from the coronavirus.

Title image: Elderly Hungarian woman being vaccinated. (MTI/Csaba Bús)

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