Hungary to launch new 'vaccination week' campaign when jabs cleared for 5-11 age group

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We would like to have a higher vaccination rate in schools therefore when the use of COVID-19 vaccines for 5-12-year-olds is authorised we could organise another campaign, Hungary's state secretary in charge of public education told commercial broadcaster HírTV late on Monday.
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The number of educational institutions forced to take some pandemic-related action has been rising over the last few weeks. In early October, 1% of kindergartens were affected and by now 3.7% of them are, Zoltán Maruzsa, state secretary in charge of public education told HírTV. He underlined that there is currently no need to implement restrictions in the entire school system, as the vaccination rate of teachers is high.

He said some 90% of teachers were vaccinated by the start of the school year.

What he did not say, though, is that there has been a shortage of teachers in Hungary for years, especially in the field of natural sciences. Why is that important? Because under a newly published government decree teachers must be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 by 15 December or they will be put on unpaid leave at the end of 2021 and terminated after one year. Consequently, this risks more teachers leaving the profession or public education, which would make the situation even worse.

Maruzsa said it is clear that most of the newly infected people are unvaccinated and that is why the government as an employer made vaccination compulsory in public institutions by mid-December.

This is the closes we have gotten so far to obtaining data on the vaccinaton status of newly infected people, or of those that are hospitalised, put on ventilator, and die. Local authorities would not disclose such information and government officials often claim they do not even have them which is simply not true. Why? It's exceedingly simple: for every step you take in the public health care system you need your social security number ('TAJ-szám'). Based on the SNN everything is searchable in the electronic database of the health care system, including your prescribed medicines, previous illnesses, and any vaccination you had.

The Democratic Union of Teachers (PDSZ) carried out an internal survey on the vaccination of teachers: as of Wednesday morning, 8,732 teaching staff had been obliged to be vaccinated, based on data from 217 institutions, and almost 19% (1,637 people) had not been vaccinated. Erzsébet Nagy, a member of the union’s executive committee, said that although feedback has not yet been received from all institutions, it is likely that this data is mostly from those with relatively high vaccination coverage, 24.hu reported.

Maruzsa also said the vaccination rate in the 12-18 age group is 51%.

It is actually the 12-17 age group, and 51% is only the vaccination rate with first doses. Coverage with two doses, i.e. full immunisation is slightly lower. And if you want other than percentages: More than 300,000 adolescents in the 12-17 age group are unvaccinated. Hungary was the first European Union country that authorised Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine from the age of 16, and it did not hesitate making shots available for the 12-17 age group, either.

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If there is a vaccine for the 5-12 age group, those affected may organise another vaccination campaign week,

, he added. Maruzsa estimates that the approval for this age group (in fact, this is the 5-11 age group) could arrive in the following weeks.

The results of trials of Pfizer’s vaccine on children aged 5- 11 were published in September, showing it produced strong antibody responses to the virus.

Nearly 2,300 participants were administered 10 µg doses, a third of the standard two-shot vaccine dose given to adults.

The trial results showed the vaccine produced similar antibody levels to 16- to 25-year-olds given a full adult dose, with similar side effects. These included having a sore arm after the injection, as well as fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, or fever. The U.S. Food and Drug Administratio (FDA), which authorised the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for this age group on 29 October, said the vaccine had been found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection in children 5 through 11.

Cover photo: Getty Images

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