As the fourth wave and the Delta variant are drawing ever closer, opinions and predictions are conflicting on just how severe their turnouts will be compared to the earlier waves. Despite the abundant availability of vaccines in the country, it seems that we may not hit the threshold for herd immunity against Delta.
As we are preparing for the fourth coronavirus wave, it seems that our vaccination rate is very much off the mark, even if it is very far from bad. Despite Béla Merkely’s former statements that “we are close to herd immunity” back in June, Chinese experts estimate that a roughly 90% vaccination rate is required. In comparison, Hungary’s rates for complete vaccination currently lie at 56%, with 5.7 million people vaccinated.
Whether or not we will have to begin wearing masks again also seems to be a source of debate. Viktor Orbán has said on public radio: “Vaccines save lives, and only vaccines do. Masks and separation will not help.” Merkely has also gone on record stating that masks “might not necessarily return, as they are much less effective against the new variant.” Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has said that lockdowns might return if our vaccination rates don’t improve, while Orbán has stated the government is “not planning on another lockdown.”
“We have over a year’s worth of experience under our belt now. We know precisely that protection and the saving of lives is only possible through vaccines.”Viktor Orbán
The government has made the third dose available for people who sign up for it, but its support campaigns are much less active than the previous ones for two-dose vaccination. Orbán has not taken the third jab, but he did say that he “might not be old enough to have to worry.” He did encourage the elderly to sign up for the third injection, however. Data currently supports this attitude well enough, especially for those who have taken the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines.
The overall consensus seems to be that everyone already inoculated and in good health is unlikely to be particularly susceptible to the Delta variant, while the elderly should be seriously considering signing up for the third dose. The unvaccinated are, however, at risk, and that is nearly half of the Hungarian population. With in-person education resuming in September, that might be all that is needed to kickstart the fourth wave. With how infectious the Delta variant is, it is likely to spread through the population quickly. However, those already protected by vaccines are much less likely to experience severe symptoms and thus are likely to avoid needing hospitalisation. The answer to whether we’re prepared or not is more nuanced than a yes or no, but for now, the vaccinated non-elderly can rest easy.