There is a gap in the Hungarian legislation that puts those lacking both a social security number and proof of a salaried position, in an impossible situation.
24.hu tells the story of one American citizen, a 60-something professor who has been teaching university classes in Budapest for 14 years. Officially, he is a guest lecturer whose work is paid for by an American non-profit foundation, costing the institution practically zero. However, that also means that since he is technically not employed by the university, his job does not allow him to get registered in the Hungarian social security system and thus obtain a TAJ (social security) number. And this is the tricky part: while the Government has announced that those with expired TAJ numbers are, too, eligible for the coronavirus vaccine,
there is no word on the rights of those who have never had one.
This particular group numbers thousands of foreigners, many of them from the US, who have been living in Hungary for years and, instead of relying on social security, have made use of private health service providers. Since the government has banned private companies from administering COVID-19 vaccines, these people now find themselves stuck. Without a TAJ number, they can not get vaccinated in the public health system, and they can not apply for one without proof of a salaried position unless they wait two years or pay a total of slightly more than two million forints (approx. 5 515 euros or 6 665 US dollars).
Krisztina, the wife of the man in question, has done everything in her power to try and get her husband registered in the social security system. She first turned to the local government office, near their home in Törökbálint, then to the Budapest office. They said that this case was not under their jurisdiction and recommended that she take the matter up with the National Health Insurance Fund of Hungary (NEAK), where an employee regretfully informed her that
they were aware of the situation but unable to remedy it without a new law being passed.
She has also tried the method recommended by the US Embassy in Hungary, entering nine zeroes in place of the TAJ number on the vaccine registration webpage, but that has only led to her husband’s name not showing up on the list of applicants.
Ferenc Falus, the former Chief Medical Officer of Hungary, has said that according to the current legislation, there should be no need for a social security number in order for somebody to receive the vaccine. Another alternative solution would be, as a NEAK employee had pointed out, allowing private healthcare centres to administer the vaccine, which would also speed up the process of inoculation.