Speaking on public Kossuth Rádió last Friday, Prime Minister Orbán said that while the inoculation of 16-18-year-olds is already underway in Hungary, Western Europe is one to two months behind us — nor do they offer a free choice as to which vaccine you get. At first, that might sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but if we look at how other EU countries are currently performing in terms of their vaccination campaign, it quickly becomes apparent that the PM’s estimates are in fact correct.
Hungary is still leading the way in COVID-19 vaccinations
This is what PM Orbán meant in his regular Friday morning radio interview when he said that most EU countries are still lagging behind.
By May 15, Saturday morning, Hungary had inoculated nearly 4.56 million people with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s more than 47 percent of the country’s population. Meanwhile, Belgium, Austria and Portugal, three of our fellow EU members with comparably sized populations, had barely surpassed the 30 percent threshold.
One could come up with a long list of reasons for Hungary’s outstanding vaccination performance, including the expertise of our doctors and healthcare workers and our professional logistics solutions, but one decision really sets us apart from the rest of Europe: Hungary’s attitude toward coronavirus vaccines. We have consistently looked at the shots as vehicles for saving the lives of our citizens, not as a topic that should give rise to debates about politics and ideology.
In this spirit, Prime Minister Orbán’s government has made it a priority to study, test and approve effective coronavirus vaccines, regardless of their country of origin, as soon as possible. While the rest of the EU was waiting around for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to gradually approve the emergency use of the available COVID vaccines, we decided to exercise our right laid down in the EU Treaties and take matters into our own hands.
Last December, Hungary became the first EU country to authorize the mass use of the Chinese Sinopharm shot. The funny thing is, even though the World Health Organization (WHO) signed off on the Chinese vaccine last week, the EMA approval is still pending. Similarly, on January 21, we authorized the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Keep in mind that just because Hungary decided not to wait for international agencies to review these “eastern” coronavirus vaccines, that in no way meant that these shots weren’t rigorously tested by Hungarian authorities before we began using them in our large-scale vaccination plan.
As we are closing in on 5 million vaccinated, a number that seems reachable by the end of May, Prime Minister Orbán revealed that at the next milestone, Hungary will lift certain restrictions concerning weddings, events and the nighttime curfew. While the numbers are promising and we are on track to getting back to our normal lives, we must still urge everyone who hasn’t already signed up to get vaccinated to do so as soon as possible.