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Study highlights subtle differences in vaccine attitudes in Central Europe

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Bratislava, Slovakia – A recent survey by the Bratislava-based think tank Globsec Policy Institute highlights common trends and subtle differences in Central Europe when it comes to vaccine scepticism and vaccination attitudes.

Key takeaways on vaccination trends in Central Europe

In its recent study “Vaccination Trends – Perceptions from Central and Eastern Europe“, Globsec pinpoints key trends in the willingness to get vaccinated against Covid-19 in nearly a dozen CEE countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania).

The survey shows that a majority of the population in Central and Eastern Europe wants to get inoculated (except for Romania and Bulgaria), with vaccine acceptance increasing on average by 20-30% compared to October 2020.

Central and Eastern European populations express a clear preference for Western-made jabs, including Pfizer and Moderna, while only a very small minority claims the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine would be their first choice.

People’s interest in getting vaccinated increases with age and the level of education, both of which have a clear impact on the countries’ levels of vaccine acceptance.

Willingness to get vaccinated in selected CEE countries. Source: Globsec

COVID-19 vaccines and Visegrad Group countries

How do Visegrad Group countries compare? In terms of willingness to get vaccinated (among respondents who haven’t been inoculated yet), Slovakia comes first with 61% of the population answering positively, compared to about 24% who wouldn’t.

In the Czech Republic (57%), Poland (57%) and Hungary (55%), a majority of the population also plans to get inoculated against the coronavirus. Vaccine scepticism was highest in Czechia, where almost a third of respondents would “definitely or rather not” get vaccinated.

The past five months have seen a steady rise of vaccine acceptance across the region, nearly doubling in Slovakia and increasing by around 30 points in the Czech Republic and Hungary and approximately 20 points in Poland.

Small differences appear between V4 countries on vaccine preferences. Slovakia stands out with some 15% of respondents citing Russia’s Sputnik V jab as their first choice, a much higher rate than any other country in the region.

According to Dominika Hajdu from Globsec, this relatively high approval “is precisely due to the fact that Sputnik V has been very much present in the public debate” in Slovakia. “For many people, the choice of Sputnik V might have become a means to express their political attitudes, one of them being a distrust towards key institutions and health authorities,” she told Kafkadesk, also pointing more broadly to the relatively strong pro-Russian sentiments in Slovakia compared to some of its neighbours.

Poland, on the other hand, has a clear preference for European or American-made vaccines, while Hungary and the Czech Republic are the only two countries who, regardless of its origins, have larger shares of respondents preferring “any vaccine approved by the EU Medicines Agency.”

Potential to get vaccinated according to different age groups of V4 respondents among those who expressed interest in vaccination or indicated they are already vaccinated. Source: Globsec

The impact of age and education

In every country, the willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19 increases with age, “as young people are more likely to avoid severe complications,” notes Globsec’s Dominika Hajdu. Although slightly different variations appear across the region – with the Czech Republic (for 25-34 years old) and Poland (for 35-44 years old) recording a drop in vaccine acceptance mid-way, for instance – the survey clearly points to a common trend of decreasing vaccine scepticism among older generations.

The differential in vaccine acceptance in Central Europe between the youngest (18-24) and oldest age groups (65+) also widely varies from one country to the next: it’s highest in Hungary (a nearly 40-point difference) and Poland (30 points), and lowest in the Czech Republic (19 points) and Slovakia (22 points).

Finally, Poland is the only country (with Lithuania) where university graduates would be less willing to get vaccinated than those with elementary schooling or without any formal education, according to the results of the survey. In all other CEE populations, vaccine acceptance increases with the level of education.

Willingness to get vaccinated based on the level of education. Source: Globsec

For more detailed results, you can find the complete study on Globsec’s website.

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