By: V4 Agency
Most of the scientists doing the research into a vaccine against the coronavirus are Hungarian, “so it’s only a bit of a stretch to say that this is a Hungarian vaccine developed with American money and Hungarian minds,” Hungarian PM Viktor Orban said in a recent interview. Reacting to his comments Katalin Kariko, the renowned biochemist whose patent was used to develop several Covid-19 vaccines, said “maybe it’s not an exaggeration to say that Hungarian minds have been involved.”
Talking about the vaccine in a recent interview, PM Orban noted that although “a German professor is also involved in all of this, most of the scientists doing the research are Hungarian”. “So it’s only a bit of a stretch to say that this is a Hungarian vaccine developed using American money and Hungarian minds,” he added. The latter statement is not an exaggeration, renowned biochemist Katalin Kariko told the Hungarian opposition news portal Szeretlek Magyarorszag, in a recent interview.
“Norbert Pardi was the first to publish (along with Drew Weissman and myself) that modified mRNA was a good vaccine. Norbert Pardi played a key role in turning modified mRNA into a vaccine. Norbert is from the town of Kisujszallas in central Hungary. So, in fact, he also deserves the recognition and I haven’t even mentioned my other Hungarian colleagues, Gabor Boros and Gabor Szabo at BioNTech, who both did a lot to make our vaccine so effective,” Ms Kariko said.
“Of course, it took the work of thousands of researchers and experts to get the vaccine ready so swiftly. Ugur Sahin, who was quick to realise the need to move ahead and set up the company, contributed with his persistent work, while Pfizer did the same with its infrastructure. We were also needed to bring the technology to an applicable level. […] “Of course, we like to get carried away and make overstatements, but maybe it’s not an exaggeration to say that Hungarian minds have been involved,” Katalin Kariko said.
Katalin Kariko also mentioned that Hungary’s premier had described her as a “good woman from Kisujszallas”. Some opposition politicians were quick to criticise the prime minister’s words, calling them obsolete, but – speaking to the szeretlekmagyarorszag.hu portal – Katalin Kariko said this was not her debate. When Viktor Orban called her on the phone, he was polite and interested, and he asked for advice.
According to Ms Kariko, a student once told her not to get involved in other people’s disputes, it’s all just noise.
“No comment. The debate will blow over and those who have too much time will find themselves a new problem. So I don’t want to make any public statements on the prime minister’s words. Whatever I say, they will start chewing on my words, instead of the prime minister’s.”
“I was hoping that the fact that I am Hungarian would unite the opponents at home to some extent, and they could celebrate together that our country is being mentioned in a positive context, but, well, I am naive,” she added.
Katalin Kariko confirmed to the portal that Viktor Orban had indeed called her in person. “The prime minister was polite and interested, and he asked for advice. He was glad the vaccine would end the pandemic. He said the country was prepared and had enough storage at -70 °C. He spoke with great sympathy about those who died of the viral infection, as well as their relatives. He talked about the economy, the countryside, the town of Kisujszallas.”
The biochemist also said that she was not following Hungarian politics. “However, if they were happy that I am also Hungarian and we speak the same language, well, that would be good. Yesterday, a Hungarian professor from New Jersey wrote that those who had received the vaccine thanked him, because they knew he was Hungarian and have read that the vaccine was developed with the help of a Hungarian woman.”
“Well, let people celebrate everywhere. I’m just sorry that those at home are unable to do so.”