Merkely: A third shot of the vaccine could be necessary for patients with certain chronic conditions

All jabs in Hungary shown to prevent serious illness, says medical university head

A second round of tests of people inoculated against coronavirus has shown that 88 percent have sufficient antibodies to protect them against the virus, Bela Merkely, the dean of Semmelweis University, told public broadcaster M1, adding, however, that focusing on the level of antibodies as a marker for immunity was beside the point.

“Clinical efficacy is the point in vaccination — the extent to which the jab can protect patients from getting seriously ill,” he said. “By that measure, all vaccines applied in Hungary have shown good results.”

Fully 1,195 people whose initial tests had indicated zero or a low level of antibodies were tested for a second time, Merkely said.

Positivity in the second round was 97 percent for the Sputnik and AstraZeneca vaccines, 94-97 percent for Pfizer and Moderna, and 82 percent for Sinopharm. He added that 93 percent of Sinopharm recipients below the age of 60 whose first antibody test was negative showed antibodies second time round, while this was true of 82 percent for those above that age.

The sensitivity of tests vary greatly across laboratories, he said, adding that the US Food and Drug Administration did not recommend that method, either, preferring the measure of clinical efficacy.

Concerning a possible fourth wave of the pandemic, Merkely warned that Hungary’s 3 million unvaccinated were fully exposed to the virus.

Merkely said that a third shot of the vaccine could be necessary for patients with certain chronic conditions, but added that no clinical tests had been conducted yet; neither was there a uniform position within the medical profession.

Commenting on the results, Gergely Gulyas, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said Budapest Mayor Gergely Karacsony’s initiative to conduct antibody tests among those already inoculated was “politically motivated, unfounded fear-mongering”. The opposition LMP has said the tests found no coronavirus antibodies in a quarter of people over 60 who had received the jab.

“Antibody tests are only good to mislead people, not to assess protection levels against Covid,” Gulyas said. According to the university’s results, 88 percent of those “mislead by Karacsony to think they are not protected” must have protection, he said.

Gulyas insisted that under Karacsony’s tenure, Budapest “has seen the largest traffic jams in Europe, lack of public sanitation has reached worrying levels and homeless people have again overrun the city”.

“Rather than finding solutions to the problems he created, Karacsony is trying to stoke fear in those who are already vaccinated and protected against the virus to further slander the government,” he said, and called on Karacsony to apologise.

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