Hungary first EU country to offer third dose COVID-19 vaccines
Penelope Liersch

After racing ahead of other EU countries to start rolling out vaccines at the beginning of the year, Hungary is now the first to offer booster jabs. 

No matter what vaccine they've had, anyone is now technically eligible for a third shot, but most will need to wait four months from their second vaccination. 

It's up to Hungarians to ask for a booster, their doctor tasked with deciding which vaccine to give them, with eight vaccine options approved in Hungary.

The system leaves most of the decisions in the hands of doctors and vaccine centre staff, something that's been heavily criticised by the medical community as a lack of guidance. 

The government provided protocol just days before third dose vaccines were allowed - but doctors say it doesn't provide scientifically backed guidelines and could leave busy professionals struggling to juggle decisions.

Dr Balazs Rekassy is part of a group of public health experts who've published a suggested protocol to help doctors decide which vaccines to choose as boosters. He's also calling for the booster vaccines to be prioritised for high-risk groups first to avoid wasting doses.

"It is a false alarm to vaccinate everybody with a third vaccine because those who are vaccinated and have an immune response or who are vaccinated as relatively young, healthy individuals are protected even against the Delta variant," he told CGTN.

Dr Rekassy hopes other doctors and the government will take time to look at the protocol he and other experts have put forward and try to prioritise patients. 

There are particular concerns about people failing to develop immune responses. Dr Rekassy says that group needs boosters more urgently than others, along with people who are yet to have their first vaccine.

On the streets of Budapest, people are divided over the topic. While some told CGTN they would have the third vaccine for extra protection, others say they will have it in time and some don't want vaccines at all. 

Hungary may have raced ahead with vaccination, aided by using some jabs still not approved by the European Medicines Agency, but after holding some of the top spots for vaccine coverage in the EU the country is quickly being overtaken. 

The number of vaccines administered each week has been stalling for months, and while around 65 percent of the adult population has had a first dose, millions haven't had any.

New data shows there have been enough shipments to vaccinate more than a 100 percent of the adult population, but the number of people coming forward is continuing to plateau. 

Experts like Dr Rekassy say that as well as prioritising who gets boosters, authorities must focus on the unvaccinated group, to work out why they're hesitant and to find a solution. 

As a fourth wave looms closer, the Hungarian government and many neighbouring authorities are urging people to get vaccinated to minimise the spread. 

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