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Hungary by atlatszo.hu

coronavirus

Detailed vaccination data provided by health authorities raises more questions than it answers

We first contacted the National Center for Public Health  (NNK) in the end of March, exactly five months ago, with a FOI request to get more information on the vaccination campaign in Hungarian cities. After several unsuccessful data requests and a 90-day deadline extension, we finally managed to get data on the status of vaccine distribution. But there are sserious problems with the data sent: official figures show that more vaccines had been administered by the end of April than the number of doses received by vaccination centres, according to the NNK. However, data from Pfizer and Sputnik V are beginning to give an idea of what the vaccination coverage in each municipality might look like.

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The coronavirus vaccination campaign started at the end of December last year in Hungary, with healthcare workers being the first to be inoculated. Initially, the only available vaccine was Pfizer, with the first shipment arriving in Hungary on 26 December. This was followed by Moderna (12 January 2021), Sputnik V (2 February), AstraZeneca (6 February) and Sinopharm (16 February). The last vaccine type to be received was the single-dose Janssen, which became available in Hungary on 13 April.

According to recent data, more than 5.6 million people have already received at least one dose of the vaccine in our country. We passed 5 million at the end of May, but since then vaccination uptake has fallen. This was expected within the government, for example Gergely Gulyá, Minister of the PM’s Office stated in May that the vaccination schedule will slow down after the first 5 million vaccinations.

There was another thing which also did not help the growth of this number:  from 4 June there was a significant reduction in the number of vaccination points available. What is more, the immunity plastic card which then had many priviliges  became almost unnecessary once the first 5.5 million vaccinated have been reached.

We wanted to see how vaccination coverage in the first four months of the campaign had evolved in different municipalities, and whether there were any differences between cities, so we sent a public interest data request to the National Centre for Public Health (NNK) at the end of March, but we were unable to obtain the data requested. Initial unsuccessful attempts were reported in our article in April:

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…

Later, it became clear that although there does not seem to be a record on the exact number of vaccines administered, the ones delivered may be kept by the health facility. In our  public interest data request, we therefore asked for it to be sent to us by the end of April 2021:

  • a list of vaccines delivered to health facilities
  • the number of vaccines administered in the first and second dose.

At the end of June, Cecília Müller, head of National Health Centre extended the deadline for response to 45 days, then for another 45 days, citing the emergency situation. Since autumn, this deadline can be extended by another 45 days if the the requested data “jeopardises the performance of public tasks related to the emergency situation with the bodies performing public tasks”. Thus, this extension is often used as an excuse by public authorities, even now, when the pandemic clearly does not give a good reason for it, because there is no significant increase in the number of new infected.

Not all our questions were answered

Compiling the received spreadsheets was not an easy task, because despite the fact that we explicitly asked for the number of vaccine doses delivered, National Public Health Centre sent the requested data in ampoules, but they did not indicate exactly how many doses each ampoule contained.

We calculated the dosage numbers won the basis of the instructions for use on the website of the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYÉI). AstraZeneca is available in vials of 8 and 10 doses, but we calculated 10 doses per ampoule, after consulting a doctor working at a vaccination centre, who said that they had only seen the 10-dose version. Moderna also comes in 10 doses per ampoule. The Chinese Sinopharm was the easiest, because comes in a pre-filled syringe or single-dose vial.

With Pfizer, the recommendation was 5 doses per ampoule for the first couple of weeks, but in January  it was increased to 6.  The situation with Russian Sputnik V was unique because it is available in multiple forms, and the composition of the first and second doses are different. However, this was indicated in the table sent to us,, so we had accurate data here.

Made with Flourish

Number of coronavirus vaccines delivered to healthcare institutions

Something is wrong with the data

After converting the vials to doses, we realised that the numbers provided by the National Public Health Centre do not match the official coronavirus information site, koronavirus.gov.hu, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) for all vaccines received and used in Hungary.

 

Administered by FOIactually administered and used number of vaccines by type

The difference was particularly striking for three vaccines: according to the data we received, 22 100 doses of Moderna had been delivered to 21 hospitals by the end of April. But this is only 6 percent of the 367,000 vaccines that had arrived in the country by then, according to official figures, of which nearly 268,000 doses had been used by the end of April.

The same is the case for AstraZeneca and Sinopharm:

only 1.9 percent of AstraZeneca used by the end of April is shown in the table as having been delivered, with only five hospitals having received it, according to the data.

For the Chinese vaccine, the proportion is slightly higher (28.8%), but that is still a long way from knowing the full picture.

Of course, vaccines are not immediately delivered to vaccination points. On 29 April, koronavirus.gov.hu reported that “all vaccines arriving in the country will be delivered to vaccination centres and GPs within a short time. Vaccines that are already in the country but not yet vaccinated are either in the reserve for a second round of vaccination, are in the process of being delivered or are under official investigation.”

However, the number of vaccines used certainly tells us that there is something wrong with the data we are getting now.

According to the spreadsheet, only 4.4 million doses of vaccine had been delivered to healthcare insititutitons by the end of April, but more than 5 million vaccines had been administered by that time.

This means that, if we accept that the datasheet is complete, miraculously more vaccines were administered than were available in hospitals and clinics at that time.

Pfizer vaccine was given to 25 hospitals, Sputnik to more than 100

However, for two vaccine types – Pfizer and Sputnik V – the dose numbers reported in the table corresponded to the number of vaccines reported in the news and in the epidemiological portal. Pfizer vaccines were delivered to 25 hospitals, which were typically hospitals in county seats and larger cities. The list included a total of 7 vaccination centres in the capital, Budapest. Of course, it is likely that Pfizer vaccines were not only administered in these 20 cities, the most probable scenario is that central hospitals later distributed the vaccine to hospitals and other healthcare facilities in smaller cities.

In terms of population, the capital city received the most from the German-American vaccines, with 362 doses per 1,000 people. Budapest was followed by Baranya (306), Tolna (288) and Vas county (276). The central and north-eastern parts of the country received the least amount of vaccine: in Pest county 155 doses of vaccine were delivered to vaccination centres, but in four other counties (Borsod, Bács-Kiskun, Szabolcs, Komárom-Esztergom) the number of vaccines received was less than 230, according to the NNK.

Normalized number of Pfizer vaccines distributed to vaccination points (by 1000 people, dose)

If we look at the Russian vaccine, the situation is a little different: 114 vaccination sites in total received this vaccine, 28 of which were in the capital. Altogether, Sputnik V vaccine was delivered in 88 cities. In terms of population, the capital again received the highest number of doses (297 doses per 1,000 inhabitants), followed by Komárom-Esztergom (178), Zala (173) and Somogy (171) counties. The counties with the lowest number of Russian vaccines were Baranya, Pest and Fejér, with less than 100 vaccines per 1,000 people.

Normalized number of Sputnik V vaccines distributed to vaccination points (by 1000 people, dose)

The number of immunity certificates tell a lot more

Last weekend, independent MP Bernadett Szél also reported on her Facebook page that she had managed to obtain data on the number of printed vaccination certificates. (It is worth noting that immunity certificates are issued not only to those who have been vaccinated, but also to those who have had a confirmed case of coronavirus infection.)

However, it is clear from the data that more than 6.5 million immunity cards had been mailed nationwide by August, which represents 66% of the total population, with Budapest (78.4%), Győr-Moson-Sopron (72.2%) and Vas (69.8%) counties receiving the most cards, Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg (56.5%), Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok (55.7%) and Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén (54.9%) receiving the least. Szél also points out in her post that there is a 23.5% difference between the first and last places on the list.

At the level of municipalities, there are places where the proportion of people with immunity is around 100 percent. Among the municipalities with the lowest rates, there are mainly villages in Borsod, Somogy and Szabolcs, where the proportion of people with a plastic card is below 25 percent, but there are also villages where only 5 percent of the population received the certificate.

Translated by Zita Szopkó. The original, more detailed Hungarian version was written by Krisztián Szabó and Zita Szopkó, and can be found here.

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