Bezárás
coronavirus

There is no settlement-level data on the number of people vaccinated in Hungary

Hungary is close to reaching 4 million inoculated people, so the question arises whether there are territorial differences in the vaccination campaign. Are there any differences between the districts of Budapest or different county seats? At the end of March, we contacted the National Center for Public Health (NNK) and the National Healthcare Service Center to ask about the vaccination process in larger Hungarian cities. We also asked the National Healthcare Service Center but we still didn’t get the settlement level data on vaccination.

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The pace of the vaccination campaign has accelerated recently: last Thursday, we reached 3.5 million vaccinees (that is, they received at least the first shot, which, however, does not provide full protection, and especially not immediately after the vaccination) and a number of restrictive measures have been eased as a result.

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In addition to daily new infections and deaths, the official pandemic information page has been publishing the number of the administered first and second doses of vaccine on its website lately. In addition, Chief Medical Officer Cecília Müller speaks regularly at the press conferences of the government’s Coronavirus Taskforce (Operational Group) about these numbers, for example, last week she explained that the number of registered people has risen to over 4.3 million and 69% have received at least one jab. She also added that 33.4% of the Hungarian population has been vaccinated, more than 90% of the registered over-65s, and 53% of the middle-aged people.

Since most of those who registered have already got at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine, we thought it is time to obtain more information about the possible differences between Hungarian settlements regarding the inoculation process. It is interesting that the number of infected, cured and deceased people can be seen in a Budapest-rural distribution, but we are unable to find such information regarding the distribution of the vaccinated people. This, however, is not the only problem with the website, as we explained in our recent article:

Official coronavirus website confuses information of public interest with government propaganda

We collected and analyzed all articles on the official Hungarian coronavirus information website (koronavirus.gov.hu) between November and March. The result didn’t come as much of a surprise in the light of our previous experiment half a year earlier.

As a result of the lack of information, at the end of March, we submitted a public interest data request to the Center for Public Health (NNK)  through Atlatszo’s foi request generator website, KiMitTud. We wanted to know

  • exactly how many people were vaccinated in each district in the capital and in the county seats as well
  • how many of these people received only the first or even second dose of vaccine

Fifteen days later NNK extended the deadline to 45 days, referring to the current state of emergency. Since autumn, this deadline can be extended by another 45 days if the the requested data “endangers the performance of public tasks related to the emergency situation with the bodies performing public tasks”.

The answer of NNK

Surprisingly, one week after the extension, NNK chose to respond nonetheless, writing that they are unable to provide settlement-level data regarding vaccinations.

After this rejection, we contacted the municipalities and sent our questions to the Operational Group as well, however, it was also unsuccessful. There were municipalities which explained that the organization of the vaccination campaign, the delivery of vaccines to GPs is the responsibility of the government offices. Since then, we have also submitted our requests to all of the government offices, we are still waiting for their response.

Another municipality answered by saying that we should write to Secretary of State István György, who coordinates the work of the County Vaccination Working Groups – unfortunately, there was no response. We also contacted the National Healthcare Service Center which is responsible for the maintainance of the system of  National eHealth Infrastructure (EESZT) which stores all health-related data online, but we still didn’t get the settlement level data on vaccination.

The chaotic nature of the situation is well illustrated by the fact that there was a municipality which suggested that we should ask the National Centre for Public Health (NNK), as “the supply of vaccines, and the organization of vaccination campaign is their responsibility”.

In other words, it seems there is no consensus on who counts as the data owner in terms of the inoculation process – provided, of course, if such settlement-level register exists at all.

A similar experience was reported by a Hungarian newspaper, Mfor, which recently asked several mayors from large Hungarian cities about the current state of the vaccination campaign. The mayors unanimously said that they have received almost no official information on epidemiological statistics since the start of the second wave, so they only have to rely on informal sources regarding this question.

This is not the first time that such things happen: we wrote about the lack of transparency of official government communication and the impossibility to obtain up-to-date data on the pandemic many times. We reported that Bernadett Szél independent MP only received data about infected and deceased people in social institutions after several months. Moreover, the settlement-level data of the infected was also published only one year after the beginning of the pandemic, thanks to a Hungarian NGO, K-Monitor.

Translated by Zita Szopkó. The original Hungarian version of this article can be found here

Cover photo: Cecília Müller, Chief Medical Officer receives her first dose of coronavirus vaccine on January 13, 2021 in Budapest, at St. Imre University Teaching Hospital. Source: Government of Hungary / Facebook

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