By: V4 Agency
In Europe, Hungary was the first to receive a small batch of the Russian vaccine in November, allowing local authorities to examine both its efficiency and safety. Meanwhile, there is growing uncertainty about Western vaccines. Hungary has pre-ordered some 12 million doses of coronavirus vaccine – worth 36 billion forints (100 million euros) – from three manufacturers: the Oxford-based AstraZeneca, the American Janssen Pharmaceutica and Pfizer. Pfizer, however, recently announced that its first shipments will target the United States, not the European Union. The distribution of the vaccines offered by the two other companies may also be delayed.
Hungary has made arrangements for the future delivery of several vaccines and is in talks with all vaccine manufacturers, as well as countries like Israel, China and Russia, Gergely Gulyas, the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office Chief, announced during his press briefing on 3 December. He added that a third wave could be contained by sign contracts for every possible vaccination capacity in both the east and the west.
A small amount of the Russian-made vaccine arrived in Hungary at the end of November so that local authorities could examine whether it was safe and effective, Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet writes. The Russian government also invited Hungarian doctors and specialists to study the production of the vaccine on site. The experts aready left for Russia on 1 December.
At a joint press conference held on 26 November in Budapest, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto thanked Russia’s health minister and government for choosing Hungary as the first in Europe to test the Russian vaccine. Peter Szijjarto added that vaccines are being developed in many countries “east of us, and also west of us”, and it is still unclear which vaccine will be available in large numbers, and at which point in time. “Giving up on any of the options would be irresponsible towards Hungarians,” he said. He emphasized that they will not give in to any pharmaceutical or business lobby, even if politicians are hired in Hungary, Brussels or anywhere else. “We will keep an eye on every opportunity because this serves the interest of the Hungarian people,” he added.
According to data from 19 November, Hungary has secured 12 million doses of vaccines worth HUF 36 billion (appr. €100 million) with three manufacturers: AstraZeneca in Oxford, the US-based Janssen Pharmaceutica and Pfizer, which announced, however, that its first vaccine supplies will target the United States, not the European Union. The vaccine produced by the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech was more likely to be sold to the United States, Sandra Gallina, the European Commission’s Director General for Health said on 18 November, signalling the risk.
The other promising vaccine development is linked to Janssen Pharmaceutica. However, the procurement contract with the pharmaceutical company, also owned by US-based Johnson & Johnson, sets the second quarter of 2021 as the earliest possible date for delivery.
According to information obtained by Magyar Nemzet, AstraZeneca is also planning to deliver its vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 at the earliest. However, there is considerable uncertainty around the joint vaccine of the British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm and the University of Oxford, because – due to a manufacturing error – some volunteers only received half of the required dose during the clinical trials. Despite the glitch, AstraZeneca says the vaccine has a 70% average efficiency, but an increasing number of experts are doubtful, saying the company had used selective methods and people older than 55 were not involved in the trials. So, if AstraZeneca is unable to provide a satisfactory response to these accusations, it will need to repeat the clinical trials, which could delay the vaccine’s approval.