Many Europeans have so far expressed their reluctance to be vaccinated against the new coronavirus, despite doubts about the speed of testing and approval. Polls show 56 per cent of The French population would not be willing to have the vaccine, while only 40 per cent of Poles would co-operate with the government. A recent survey by the World Economic Forum and Ipsos also found that Spain and Italy were also more sceptical of COVID-19 approval than other countries, with the setting being that European countries are less likely to have confidence in vaccines and that confidence is falling.
The results of the weF and Ipsos survey were broadly similar to the 2019 global survey by the non-profit Wellcome Trust and the Vaccine Confidence Project, which found that European countries did not Trust the COVID-19 Vaccine. Imran Khan, head of the Wellcome Trust, said their survey showed a broad trend across the world, with the richer and more effective a country is, the less trusted its people become in vaccines. Countries with high trust in vaccines had relatively low exposure or vaccination coverage rates.
China, Russia, Canada, the United States, Switzerland, Serbia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia have already started vaccinations, and The UK launched them three weeks earlier than the EU after agreeing a trade deal to leave the EU last week. Responding to concerns, French Health Minister Oliver Veran said France would not rule out a third nationwide lockdown if new cases continue to rise after the holiday season. “We are keeping an eye on the increase every hour,” he said. “France is recording around 15,000 new cases a day, three times the government’s target of 5,000.”
Worryingly, European public vigilance over the COVID-19 vaccine is likely to hamper its effectiveness. According to the latest poll, published by the Journal du Dimanche, 56 per cent of French people do not intend to be vaccinated. Polls suggest that less than 40% of Poles intend to be vaccinated. The Warsaw hospital is the first in the country to be vaccinated, but only half of its staff have registered to do so. “I don’t think there is any vaccine in history that has been tested so quickly,” explained Ireneusz Sikorski, 41, from Poland, in an interview in central Warsaw. “I am not saying that one should not be vaccinated, but I will not let my children and Myself be vaccinated with an unproven vaccine.”
France is a particularly low confidence in vaccines in Europe, and Lucie Guimier, a geopolitics expert at the University of Paris who has previously studied anti-vaccine sentiment, said France has always been the most sensitive country for vaccines. “Part of it has to do with our social and political history,” she explains. “We have high hopes for the French government, but we are also very critical of the state. In addition to concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine, France has expressed a defence of the idea that vaccination is a personal freedom and can prevent the state from intruding into our private lives. Confidence in vaccines has fallen in France following previous massive health scandals.” Notably, French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly said the vaccine will not be compulsory in France.
A global survey by the American journal Nature found that people with high levels of trust in government information were more likely to accept the vaccine. Dr Heidi Larson, head of the Vaccine secrecy programme at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “This is due to the fact that vaccines are heavily regulated by governments around the world, recommended or possibly enforced by governments. “If you don’t trust the government or have questions about institutions, then people may think twice before getting vaccinated and think twice before getting vaccinated.”
The WeF/Ipsos survey also adds to the new position that confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine is steadily declining in Europe. Dr Andrea Rubin, a researcher at The University of Bergamo, explained: “If italians had confidence in experts and government institutions during the first wave of COVID-19, then their confidence levels will be much lower after the second wave.”
Forty-five percent of Bulgarians have said they will not get the COVID-19 vaccine, and 40 percent intend to wait to see if there will be any side effects. German, a 28-year-old singer and arranger from the island of Tenerife in Spain, one of the hardest hit European countries, said he was also watching the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. “No one around me has been diagnosed with COVID-19,” he said. “I’m certainly not saying it doesn’t exist, because a lot of people die from it, but I’m not getting vaccinated right now.”
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, secretary-general of the World Health Organisation, made it clear in a video message that it was time to learn the lessons of COVID-19, because history will tell us this will not be the last pandemic.