Three quarters of those who died from COVID-19 last year in Hungary were unvaccinated
On May 25, 2022, we submitted a FOI request to the National Public Health Center (NNK), in which we wanted to know the vaccination history of those who have died from COVID-19: if the deceased received vaccinations, how many and what type of vaccine. Although the NNK did not specify the type of vaccine, after several clarifications, we received a reply to the first part of our request, which we can also present at the level of municipalities. The database shows that in 2021, only a quarter of the deceased received at least one dose of vaccine.
At the end of May, after several months of waiting, we finally received the table on deaths from coronavirus infection by the National Public Health Centre. It contained data on the daily deaths from coronavirus at the level of settlements. In our article on the subject, we also presented that something was wrong with the data: a comparison with the daily death tolls published on the official coronavirus information website, koronavirus.gov.hu, showed that more than 1600 deaths were missing from the database.
Atlatszo has received more detailed data than ever before from the National Public Health Centre (NNK) on deaths from coronavirus infection. The table shows how many people have died from COVID-19 in a settlement on a given day up to the end of January 2022.
What is more,in the document we received, we also found a code fragment, which suggests the existence of additional data fields not communicated to the public before.
„In other words, the NNK has a detailed database of deceased persons, including not only the age, sex, disease, address, etc. of the deceased, but also a history of vaccination against coronavirus” – we concluded.
Based on this information, we submitted a new data request seeking the following information, in which we wanted to know more about the age and the sex of the deceased, the date of death, as well as territorial information and the number of vaccinations the deceased received (if any) and the type of vaccines.
NNK sent its reply, however, the final table still does not cover the data requested, as “the number of persons registered as infected with coronavirus at the time of death is not more than 1-2 persons per day, week or even month in most municipalities, to avoid the risk of identification and detection”, so the requested data were provided without dates, aggregated for the year 2021, with the numbers of three or less cases being dotted in the table. Of the 2467 municipalities with deaths in 2021, 1290 were included.
However, in response to our request for data at the end of May, they released a table of deaths that included the number of deaths by day and by municipality between 1 February 2021 and 31 January 2022. Using these values, we have added to the newly obtained database, so that we were finally able to calculate the number of deceased validated by the NNK in 2021: 28 153 persons, which is 1496 fewer than the total published by the official coronavirus website.
We were also able to calculate the vaccination rate: of the 28 153 people, 3027 were vaccinated once, 3783 twice and 698 three times, i.e.
only a quarter of those who died of coronavirus in 2021 had been vaccinated at least once.
However, this information alone should be treated with caution, because we do not know when the deceased received the vaccinations, nor when exactly they lost their lives. The difference between these two dates would make it possible to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine and the duration of protection against infection.
On 4 August 2021, the third vaccination campaign also started, with 98% of people having requested a Western vaccine by the end of November, and a total of 3.18 million people having taken advantage of the booster vaccination by the end of the year. During these five months, only 698 people lost their lives after three vaccinations. While this suggests the durability of the vaccines’ protection, age (43.22% of those vaccinated for the third time by 30 November were over 60) and underlying diseases that reduce the immune system’s defences may also have contributed to the number of deaths after three vaccinations.
The distribution by settlement was similar to that for the country as a whole, with a significantly higher proportion of unvaccinated victims and a higher proportion of those vaccinated twice. First, a closer look at the county capitals: in Zalaegerszeg, where there were 177 deaths due to coronavirus infection in 2021, 58.76% of the deceased were unvaccinated, the lowest rate among the 19 county capitals. In Budapest, 3233 out of 4609 people were unvaccinated (70.15 percent), while in Tatabánya 147 out of 177 people were unvaccinated (83.05 percent). In the other county seats, the number of deaths ranged between 100 and 500.
The map below shows the data for all municipalities in searchable form. The number of deaths has been proportionalised by the number of inhabitants in order to facilitate comparison between municipalities.
In our data request, we asked for the type of vaccine to be indicated alongside the number of vaccinations received. This data was not provided by the NNK because they said it is considered sensitive personal data and therefore cannot be disclosed.
Because of all this, we submitted another FOI request to the Centre, in which we requested the vaccination history of the deceased (number of vaccines received, type) based on the date of death.
Methodology: in the table received at the end of June, for those municipalities with three or fewer deaths in 2021, NNK did not include the exact numbers for the columns where the value was not zero (i.e. between 1 and 3). In the table received in the 19 May data request, we aggregated the number of deaths between 1 February 2021 and 31 December 2021 by municipality, and then inserted the resulting values into the dotted cells in the number of deaths column of the June data table. We then manually filled in the dotted cells in the column containing the number of unvaccinated, once, twice or thrice vaccinated.For the municipalities for which we could not find data from the May table (i.e. no deaths between February and December 2021), we counted one as the total number of deaths and entered one in the blanked cell for the vaccination values – since the municipality was in the table, it had deaths in 2021, but it is unlikely to have more than one if there were no deaths in the remaining eleven months of the year.
The data for the municipalities with 1-3 deaths are therefore based on a comparison of the two NNK databases, and the figures validated by the NNK may differ more or less from our extended database for these municipalities.
Translated by Zita Szopkó. Data visualisation: Krisztián Szabó. The original, Hungarian version of this story was written by Krisztián Szabó and can be found here.