In Hungary, unlike in some, mostly western EU member states that still reject the idea of employing proven “eastern” jabs in their vaccination programs, we care more about saving people’s lives than winning over mainstream news outlets and generating sensational headlines.
Those who closely followed the debates on access to coronavirus vaccines in the European Union last fall will recall that Hungary, and Prime Minister Orbán in particular, was the first (and for a long time, the only) country in the bloc to denounce tying political and ideological questions to the procurement of the life-saving shot.
“The question of the vaccine must not be turned into a political issue,” PM Orbán said back then and has held this position ever since. Seeing the European Commission’s inability to meet delivery orders in November, the Hungarian government began negotiations early with other potential sources of the jab, including the Russian Gamaleya Research Institute’s Sputnik V vaccine and the Chinese Sinopharm shot.
The results? As of this morning, Hungary has vaccinated 2,608,084people, out of whom 1,077,947 have already received their second dose. If we take a look at the percentage of people who have received at least the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, we will find Hungary on top of the EU’s leaderboard. With over 26 percent of our population already vaccinated, a figure that is, by the way, nearly double the EU average, Hungary is outperforming other EU member states.
“Had we not ordered vaccines from China and Russia, we would be roughly in the same position as the countries of western Europe, which have been able to only vaccinate approximately half as many as we have,” Prime Minister Orbán said in an interview.
While we’ve come very far since we set our carefully designed vaccination strategy in motion last December, there are several steps left to take before we can finally reopen the country and begin rebooting not just our economy, but our communities as well.
We achieved the first goal already on Tuesday – that was to inoculate everyone above the age of 65 who had registered to receive the shot. Having vaccinated more than 2.5 million people in Hungary, the government lifted certain restrictions and allowed shops and services to reopen on Wednesday. Among other new measures are a shorter curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and extended opening hours for shops until 9:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the vaccination of teachers and school staff continues, with an expected reopening of our schools on April 19.
“Reopening, however, is a deceptive term,” Prime Minister Orbán said recently. This is why we prefer to talk about a gradual reboot instead.
According to the government’s estimates, by late April or early May, all of those who have signed up for the vaccine, some 3.8 million Hungarians, will have received their first dose of the jab. If everything goes as planned, further restrictions will be revoked in the upcoming months, and Hungarians – hopefully – can enjoy a “free summer” and slowly get back to their old lives.
This is the only story that matters, and, sadly, this is the story that’s ignored by the international press corps.