Who Resists Corona Vaccination in Germany?

by Thomas Klikauer and Norman Simms

covid vaccine

In 2021, Germany’s population is about 84 million. A total of 73.9 million people in Germany could be vaccinated and a Covid-19 vaccine is available to them. Yet by the middle of September 2021, only 55.3 million Germans have been vaccinated at least once (66%). This means that there are over 18 million Germans still not vaccinated. 

By the middle of November 2021, just 67.5% of all Germans were fully vaccinated. In other words, roughly one third of all Germans are still not vaccinated – even though Germany’s official starting date to get vaccinated was the 27th December 2020.  A recent survey makes it possible to generalize and extrapolate from the statistics, and then to contextualize such ideas in the history of modern Germany.

In terms of Germany’s geography consisting of sixteen states, one might roughly say that there is a north-south divide, with the north of Germany showing markedly higher vaccination rates than the south. In addition, there is also an east-west difference, with those states in the former East-Germany showing lower vaccination rates than those in the former Federal Republic. 

For example, people in the northern port city of Bremen (full vaccination: 79.2%) show a high vaccination rate. Meanwhile, a southern state like Bavaria shows only 65.6%. Even worse, the vaccination rate in the former East-Germany state of Saxony comes in at a mere 57.5%.

With rising case numbers, rising deaths, full intensive care units in hospitals, and sluggish vaccination uptake, Germany’s Ministry of Health is seeking to ascertain the reason for those areas not getting vaccinated. The survey area – study included 3,000 Germans (September-October 2021). It found that there are four general types of people showing what is known as vaccine reluctance or vaccination hesitancy:

  1. The Denier: a denier is a person who rejects the very existence of Corona virus, believing that there is no proof that the virus even exists; this is denial of modern science and medical professionalism. It puts the denier in a dark room all by himself. In America, such people, even as they lie gasping for breath, in intensive care units and on ventilators, still refuse to believe that the Corona Virus exists.
  1. Fearing a Dictatorship: the second group are people who are reluctant to get vaccinated because they are afraid of a rising dictatorship, one that will be created in the wake of Covid-19 measures issued by the government. They believe health and safety measures are a smokescreen to create an anti-democratic state. They accept range of wild conspiracy theories and can’t be argued out of their position.
  2. The Skeptics: the skeptics are those who are reluctant to believe what is reported in the media. They distrust science, official announcements and medical professionals. Many of them also believe, one should trust common sense rather than science, even though we know that common sense is actually not that common and public opinion is shaped by conspiratorial rumors and deliberate misinformation. Their skepticism amounts to a denial in the face of vast amounts of proof and agreement among specialists.
  1. The Doubters: the last group represented on the opposite end are from the paranoid fringe, the outright anti-vaxxers – are those people who like to believe in all conspiracy fantasies. The doubters only partially disbelieve science, the government’s stated intentions, and the professional advice of medical profession and universities. They want to wait while the spread of the virus waits for no man or woman to make up their mind. In short, they are doubtful about the Coronavirus pandemic. Their hesitations are derived from poor cognitive skills and misunderstanding of what quarantine rules are meant to do. They are surprised when they fall ill of the disease or when regulations confine them to a very limited life out of their homes.

One of the key aspects of the survey – government’s study, is that 34% of all non-vaccinated Germans do not want to get vaccinated because they believe that the vaccine has not been tested sufficiently long enough. Simultaneously, 18% are afraid of the side effects. Interestingly, only 16% of Germany’s non-vaccinated people reject mandatory vaccination. In other words, even among non-vaccinated Germans, a whopping 84% would support mandatory vaccination against the Corona virus. 

Yet 15% of non-vaccinated Germans say that they do not trust this particular vaccine and are waiting for something safer to use, while a further 15% do not trust any information they are given about the Coronavirus pandemic. Just 12% believe that a vaccination will not prevent them from getting the Corona virus. Meanwhile, 10% believe that the risk taken to get vaccinated is higher than the risk of getting the Corona virus itself – which is, of course, pure nonsense. 

Worse, 37% of all non-vaccinated Germans imagine that, even when sufficient numbers of people are vaccinated, their government will not ease off on its Corona restrictions. Fascinatingly, 13% of all non-vaccinated Germans think that they can no longer have children after being vaccinated. On the upswing is the fact that now just 5% of all non-vaccinated Germans reject any form of vaccination – not just those who shy away from the current form against the Corona virus.

Remarkably, too, German women are much more likely to say that they think vaccination will have a negative health impact on them compared to what German men think. On the other hand, German men are more likely than women to believe that Germany’s health system can handle high numbers of Corona patients well, even when these patients are in intensive care units. This is a form of selective trust and distrust syndrome, just beyond fuzzy thinking. 

Of those not vaccinated, 22% believe that they might get vaccinated at some point—though when is never clear. Meanwhile, 78% say that they will never get vaccinated no matter what. Yet, of the 9% of those who say that they might get vaccinated, admit that they are doubtful about the effectiveness of the vaccine. 

On the other side, a staggering 92% of those who are not vaccinated say that they haven’t gotten vaccinated because Germany’s federal government’s health and political officials have been dishonest with ordinary people. 

Overall, just 2% of the non-vaccinated Germans say that they will “definitely not” get vaccinated in the next eight weeks. Simultaneously, 3% say that they will “most likely” not get vaccinated in the next two weeks. Just 7% are undecided about whether or not to get vaccinated in the next two weeks. Time goes by quickly, spreader events and contagion spots appear more and more often.

There is no significant difference between German men and German women: 66% of all men say they will not get vaccinated in the next eight weeks and 63% of all women also say so. There is also no noticeable difference when it comes to age: 62% of those aged between 18 and 39 say they will not get vaccinated; 64% between the age of 40 and 54 say the same thing; and 68% of those 55 and older make the same statement: they will never get vaccinated. 

It appears, then, that there is a slight increase of anti-vax sentiment that comes with age. Older non-vaccinated Germans are more unlikely to get vaccinated than their children or grandchildren. These could be people who remember forced racial hygiene measures during the Nazi era and the regulations imposed during the occupation years.

Yet, among the aforementioned four groups, there is a significant difference: 84% of deniers say they will not get vaccinated in the next eight weeks; 74% of those fearing a dictatorship say so; and 63% of the skeptics told the surveyors the same thing. 

However, when it comes to the last group of the doubters, just 19% of all non-vaccinated Germans say they do not want to be vaccinated in the next eight weeks. In other words, 81% of the doubters are likely to get vaccinated against the Corona virus.

Most surprising is yet another aspect of the survey – the survey. Between 20% and 30% of all non-vaccinated Germans say they are less likely to get vaccinated even if German society restricts the freedoms of non-vaccinated people further than it already does. In other words, it appears that the introduction of mandatory vaccination would lead to the opposite outcome – less people will get vaccinated. 

In short, it would encourage an even stronger opposition to vaccination. That is to say, the tougher German society gets on non-vaccinated Germans, their resistance to vaccination will stiffen. Why this orneriness comes through is not clear.   They won’t because they won’t. So there!

One the other hand, 56% of non-vaccinated Germans say that their willingness to get vaccinated will increase if more kinds of vaccine start to enter the health system. Simultaneously, only 5% said it would increase their willingness to get vaccinated if some sort of a reward would be offered. 

And, 18% said it would lower their willingness to get vaccinated. At the same time, a whopping 75% said, it makes no difference to them whether or not a reward is offered. It would take long interviews to tease apart these contradictory opinions, not a quick survey.

Finally, just 4% of those surveyed said it would increase their willingness to get vaccination when more people are infected with the Corona virus, while the same number (4%) say that their willingness would actually decrease. 

A further 90% say, it makes no difference to them if, as the British premier Boris Johnson once notoriously said, let the bodies pile high – no matter what, more people will die from the Corona virus as the Pandemic continues. In reality, Germany is fast approaching the status of a high risk country at 100,000 death mark.

For some people, no matter what has been said and done to control the spread of the virus, for German men and women, it makes no difference if more people are infected with the Corona virus. In fact, it also makes no significant difference when age comes in. In other words, neither gender nor age has any influence on those die-hard non-vaccinated Germans who say that even when more people have the jab, they will not get vaccinated. They can’t seem to look beyond their noses at the general good.

Significantly, the only thing that seems to increase the willingness to get vaccinated among non-vaccinated Germans occurs when an increased number of new vaccines comes online and when they are approved by an official body—especially an overseas agency like the US’ Centre for Disease Control. This is particularly true when those new vaccines are traditional vaccines rather than BioNTech/Pfizer’s new mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Like those raucous resisters who claim some sort of needle aversion as their reason for not getting vaccinated, it is clear from images of them on protest demonstrations, that most of them are heavily tattooed or have records of drug abuse via needles. They won’t get vaccinated because they won’t have anyone telling them what to do, to hell with the rest of the population.

Yet this whole range of opinions and hesitations varies between the four groups outlined above. Surprisingly, with 70%, the skeptics are the most likely people to get vaccinated; followed by those with the rather irrational fear of a looming dictatorship; still, 40% of the deniers would get vaccinated; and only 28% of the doubters would get vaccinated. So the old adage is true: There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Overall, most non-vaccinated Germans believe that not all voices representing science have been allowed to come to the fore. They also believe that some medical doctors and scientists have no platform to participate on the debate (89%). The same number (89%) believe that there is a rather one-sided report by the media on the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Still, 80% think that one should trust common sense rather than the media or science. Beyond that, 19% think that there is no definite proof that the Coronavirus pandemic even exists. Many (if not most) of these so called medical experts have practices and degrees in other fields than epidemiology, and most of the nay-saying scientists are technicians rather than research scientists.

By comparison, while 89% of non-vaccinated Germans believe that the so-called medical doctors and self-declared scientists have no platforms and that the reporting on the Coronavirus pandemic is one-sided, only 42% of all Germans believe that to be the case. When it comes to one-sided-ness, the number is even lower in the general population (34%). In other words, there is a significant difference between the general population of Germans and those non-vaccinated.

Significantly, non-vaccinated Germans rely to a much higher degree on online social platforms for information about the Coronavirus pandemic than professional organizations, government agencies or official organizations. Non-vaccinated Germans prefer WhatsApp (83%) followed by YouTube (72%). Facebook (51%) and Telegram (38%) are less dominant. Below that is Twitter (11%) and TikTok (6%).  People, it seems, of this sort search for the opinions they agree with, not the truth.

Young non-vaccinated Germans (below the age of 40) tend to use WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook, and Telegram more often than non-vaccinated Germans above the age of 55. Among these online platforms, Telegram remains the preferred media for those who deny the existence of the Coronavirus pandemic and those who fear a Corona-Dictatorship.

Overall, one might say that once new vaccines come online, a large number of non-vaccinated Germans will be more likely to get vaccinated. Only very few non-vaccinated Germans will continue to reject any vaccination outright. 

Yet, only very few non-vaccinated Germans plan to get vaccinated in the coming weeks, the crucial pre-Christmas and New Year period when families and communities gather to celebrate the holidays. Simultaneously, government measures that entice or demand vaccination probably will have only limited results or – worse – the exact opposite effect. 

Finally, attitudes displayed by non-vaccinated Germans are markedly different from other Germans. This also applies when it comes to the use of online platforms to gather information about the Coronavirus pandemic. There are two views of the world opposing one another, and the anti-vaxxers belong to a shrinking minority. 

Originally published in Znet

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