Hungarian PM receives Chinese vaccine as government ramps up rollout

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gets the jab. [Facebook page of Viktor Orbán]

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been vaccinated with a coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm, Orbán announced on his official Facebook page on Sunday (28 February) as the country tries to accelerate its vaccination programme.

Hungary on Wednesday became the first European Union member to start inoculating people with Sinopharm shots after rolling out Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine as well, even though neither has been granted approval for emergency use by the bloc.

Chinese coronavirus jab brings relief, and concern in Hungary

We should be happy to get any vaccine,” said Laszlo Cservak, a pensioner queueing in Budapest for China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine shot after Hungary became the first EU member to start using it.

“Vaccinated,” Orbán said, with photos of him receiving the shot and a doctor showing the vaccine’s packaging box.

“I am working again, you can see I am perfectly fine, you should not be afraid either. The third wave (of the pandemic) is here and it’s going to be stronger than the previous two,” Orbán said in a video, asking Hungarians to register for vaccination and trust Hungarian experts with regard to the Chinese vaccine.

On Friday Orbán had flagged a possible tightening of lockdown curbs as the daily tally of new infections jumped to its highest this year, which is expected to place the country’s hospitals under heavy strain in the next two weeks.

Hundreds of people took to a square in the capital Budapest on Sunday to protest against the lockdown measures, ignoring a ban on public gatherings, with most of them not wearing masks.

“We have had enough of politicians’ games. We want to take control over our own lives; we will not let ourselves be locked up,” said one of the organisers.

The protest ended quickly after police started to ask people to show their documents.

The Russian and Chinese shots are being administered along with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and shots developed by US company Moderna and Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, all of which have received the EU green light.

Orbán has said that all the 2.5 million to 2.6 million Hungarians who have registered for COVID-19 vaccinations so far would receive at least one dose by Easter, in early April.

All secondary schools have been closed since 11 November, as have hotels and restaurants, except for takeaway meals. An evening curfew has also been put in place.

Hungary, with a population of about 10 million, has reported 428,599 cases since the start of the pandemic, with 14,974 deaths. As of Sunday, 677,682 people had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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