BUDAPEST, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Hungary needs to increase the number of people taking booster shots against COVID-19 to curb infections, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio on Friday.
Orban said the government would extend a special campaign making vaccinations available without any prior registration to next week following a surge in COVID-19 cases.
He said he would “not exclude anything” but that if the spread of the virus can be curbed with vaccines then there will not be a need for lockdown measures.
Neighbouring Slovakia followed the example of Austria on Wednesday, ordering a two-week lockdown to quell a fast rise in COVID-19 cases.
Orban said the government would make vaccines available to parents if they want their children aged between 5 and 11 be vaccinated, and has ordered 2 million doses for this purpose, with the first shipment coming next month.
The European Medicines Agency approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s, COVID-19 vaccine for the age group on Thursday.
Hungary, a country of 10 million whose vaccination rate lags the European Union average, reported a record 12,637 new daily COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.
Orban’s government, which faces elections in April 2022 and opposes further lockdowns for fear of stifling the economy, launched a vaccination campaign this week, offering vaccine shots without prior registration.
Thursday’s data showed 5.81 million people, or just under 60% of the population, have been fully vaccinated, while 2.15 million have received booster shots.
Hungary has made booster shots mandatory for healthcare workers and protective mask wearing has again been required in most indoor places since Saturday. But the changes fall short of the strict measures urged by Hungarian doctors as hospitals are filling up.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Kim Coghill and Timothy Heritage)
PHOTO- EC Audiovisual Service