The British mutation of the novel coronavirus is spreading faster than previous variants, which makes further restrictions necessary, says Dr. Miklós Szabó, a reformed elder, medical doctor and associate professor at Semmelweis Medical University in Budapest. The pandemic will stay with us all the way through 2021, but by getting vaccinated, we can do a lot to ensure that it no longer determines our lives. An interview with the medical and health care advisor of the Synod of the RCH.
What caused the third wave of the epidemic in Hungary even against restrictions which have been in place?
The new outburst of the pandemic has mainly been connected to the new variants and mutations of the virus, which spread three to four times faster than previous ones. That is why it cannot be curbed by the same provisions which we implemented successfully to stop the first and second waves. New restrictive measures are needed also in our church. There is no other solution.
According to the WHO, the pandemic will not be over by the end of this year. What do you think?
The WHO makes generally well-established statements. I agree with their prediction. The coronavirus will stay with us all year round, but it isn’t all the same how intense it will be in Hungary. I expect that there will be no shortage of vaccines and I hope people will realize that it is part of the prevention to get vaccinated. The spread of COVID-19 is right now extremely intense, the daily death toll exceeding hundred deaths a day is a clear indication for this. But we hope that the we will reach the phase of the epidemic when only sporadic new cases will be detected, and we will only have a few infections per day with mild illness.
This requires herd immunity.
Exactly, and community immunity threshold can only be achieved by a vaccination level of sixty to seventy percent. We can observe, for example, in the case of Israel, that epidemiological restrictions and lockdown rules can only be loosened at high vaccination coverage rates. Thank God, the willingness to get vaccinated has tripled in Hungary since November, and the people are waking up from defiance and unfounded fear creating anxiety.
Inoculation program does not include children under sixteen, as there is no approved vaccine yet for them. If there would be one, would it be worth involving them to achieve herd immunity sooner?
It is also possible without the vaccination of minors. Adults should set an example and get vaccinated. Instead of doing so, some of them take false, irresponsible, anti-community, individualist, negative stance. Incidentally, almost all vaccines administered in Hungary are undergoing official clinical trials to get authorized for children and adolescents, mainly over six years.
For the time being, vaccination is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers either.
Experiences with previous antiviral vaccines, such as influenza vaccine, suggest that fetal harm is not to be expected in the case of Covid vaccines either. International data collection is underway to enable us to approve that mothers who are breastfeeding their children should boldly get vaccinated against Covid. By the way, there are several breastfeeding mothers among my acquaintances, mostly young medical doctors who have been vaccinated. Pregnant women do not make up a percentage of the total Hungarian population, they don’t influence herd immunity so much. It is crucial that the majority takes care of them by accepting the vaccination.
Pfizer – BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson, which are licensed also in Hungary, use cell lines derived from human fetuses electively aborted decades ago to differing degrees. Do you think this practice is of moral concern?
Whoever now refuses vaccination will ultimately contribute to the death of others, as more people will die without proper vaccination. I think that immunity and protection is an extremely important priority in the current situation. Of course, if anyone refuses to receive these vaccines out of religious conviction, there are optional vaccines, like the Russian Sputnik or the Chinese Sinopharm, which are produced in using a different method.
Originally published in Refotmátusok Lapja, the Church Weekly of RCH