COVID vaccine misinformation and hesitancy are 'spreading as fast as the virus' in Eastern Europe

Russian COVID testing sign.
(Image credit: NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Image)

Amid rising infections and a resurgence in cases, some parts of Europe — Central and Eastern Europe, namely — are battling vaccine hesitancy issues of their own, The Washington Post reports.

"We are currently experiencing a pandemic mainly among the unvaccinated," said German Health Minister Jens Spahn at a recent news conference. "And it is massive." Germany's vaccination rate falls slighly behind Britain and France's, per the Post. The European Union's overall 65 percent vaccination rate is "buoyed in part" by uptake in heavily-vaccinated countries like Portugal, but "bogged down by lagging efforts" elsewhere.

For example, only a third of the population in Romania is fully vaccinated. About 57 percent of citizens in the Czech Republic, a rate similar to that of the United States, have received both doses.

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In Russia, where "recorded infections are at their highest levels yet," vaccine hesitancy is likely a result of distrust in the government and in the "vaccines themslves," writes the Post, per Elizabeth King, a professor at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health.

"Misinformation is spreading as fast as the virus," King said. Recently, a doctor in St. Petersburg, Russia told the Post that the "resistance from the population is huge."

Conspiracy theories about both COVID and the vaccine are fueling hesitancy in Bulgaria, too. "The people in my community don't want to get vaccinated," a vaccinated Bulgarian woman, Kapka Georgieva, told the Post. "They are afraid and hearing on television and other sources that they might die. There is panic."

And Volodymyr Zelensky, president of the Ukraine, recently made his own appeal to the citizens of his country, as well, where less than 1 in 5 people are fully vaccinated against COVID, per the Post.

"We must get vaccinated," Zelensky, said recently to reporters. "It's the only solution."

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