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26 May, 2024
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Mistrust results in a rise in COVID cases in Eastern Europe

Lowest vaccination rates in the EU

Source: Reuters

Latvia imposed a new lockdown on Thursday, with hospitals in Bulgaria and Romania struggling to cope with an increase in patients with covid-19, while Poland is selling extra doses of vaccine. Many countries in Central and Eastern Europe are torn between mistrust of vaccines and the remorse of some unvaccinated people. This region has one of the lowest levels of covid-19 vaccination in the EU and the most contagious coronavirus strains are spreading rapidly there.

In Bulgaria - the poorest country in the EU, which according to Our World Data currently has the third highest rate of covid-19 deaths worldwide - only one in four adults is fully immunized. In contrast, in Ireland, Portugal and Malta the percentage reaches 90%. Hundreds have protested in Sofia and other cities against the health bill that went into effect on Thursday, allowing access to many indoor, public places only to those who have been vaccinated.

Vaccines show that the shadow of the Soviet Union still dominates the human subconscious. Some people still live in fear and disbelief,

Meanwhile, hospitalizations due to covid-19 increased by 30% last month and hospitals in the Bulgarian capital have suspended non-emergency surgeries. In Latvia, which yesterday became the first European country to impose a lockdown after the summer crackdown, Biruta Andoman, a pensioner vaccinated against covid-19, expressed outrage at nearly 50% of her adult compatriots who have not done so. "I would like to go shopping and have coffee, I would like to enjoy my life more, instead of living in a lockdown," she said. "People are weird...I do not understand their motives."

Fear and disbelief

Vaccination hesitation is a global phenomenon. France and the United States are trying to tackle the problem, and an increase in covid-19 vaccine deniers is seen in some Asian countries, including Japan. Experts point out that Central Europeans are particularly cautious after decades of communist regimes eroding public confidence in state institutions and leaving behind underdeveloped health systems, which are now facing underfunding.

According to the Eurobarometer, at least one in three citizens in most Eastern European countries do not trust the health system, in contrast to the European average of 18%. "Vaccines show that the shadow of the Soviet Union still dominates the human subconscious. Some people still live in fear and disbelief," said Thomas Sobierazski, a sociologist at the University of Warsaw.

In Slovakia, vaccine warnings are fueled by opposition politicians, including former Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has said he will not be vaccinated against covid-19. In Poland, where the daily rate of new cases has reached its highest level since May, vaccination coverage is very low in the conservative countryside, which usually votes in favor of the ruling, nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party.

This forced the government to sell or donate to other countries extra doses of vaccines.  In Romania, which ranked second in deaths due to covid-19 and with outbreaks reaching 19,000 a day this week, about one in three adults have been immunized, the second lowest rate in the EU.

Moreover 40% of Romanians do not trust the public health system, the highest rate in the EU.

Cyprus  |  EU  |  EasternEurope  |  vaccine  |  COVID

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