Hungary offers free tests amid vaccine efficacy worries

Photo: AP

Budapest, Hungary's capital city, started offering free antibody testing to its elderly residents in a bid to ratchet up pressure on the government over concerns that certain vaccines don't provide adequate protection against the coronavirus, news wires reported.

The offer of 20,000 free tests, available for residents over 60, came after many fully vaccinated people reported that some tests had indicated that they hadn't developed antibodies to defend against Covid-19. Budapest Deputy Mayor Ambrus Kiss said those reports came primarily from people who received China's Sinopharm vaccine, convincing city leaders that there was “a genuine problem." 

“If there is such a loss of confidence in certain vaccines, then the government needs to order a third dose and free up the capacities for giving them,” Kiss told the AP, adding that the tests are available to anyone over 60 regardless of which vaccine they received. “We think the more tests we perform, the more societal pressure there is for a third dose,” he pointed out. The testing drive will continue next week, and initial results will likely be released next week with the full results expected by the end of the month.

Hungary was an early vaccination leader in the EU, due largely to its procurement of jabs from eastern countries like Russia and China, on top of vaccines received through the EU. It was the first country in the Union to approve Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, and is the only one to deploy China's Sinopharm. More than 5.1 million doses of the jab have been distributed to Hungary, of which it has administered more than 2 million, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

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