Switzerland, Austria and the German state of Bavaria are among the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe. German researcher Michael Blume tries to explain it.
The differences in vaccination rates among Europeans are by now quite remarkable. In the Netherlands, 84.7 percent of the population aged 18 and older has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In Iceland that is 91.4 percent with Denmark not far behind with 88.5 percent. Then Norway with 88 percent. Residents of a number of southern European countries are also vaccinated firmly: Portugal (91.9 percent of adults) and Malta (91.8 percent) stand out.
Austria (74.3 percent), Germany (80.8 percent nationally, but in Bavaria 64.8 percent) and Switzerland (66.5 percent) seem to deviate from the European picture. Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, when announcing a new lockdown, grumbled at the approximately two million Austrians who stubbornly refuse to take the vaccine.
The German researcher Michael Blume of the Faculty of Religious Studies at the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT) today publishes a study into the differences in vaccination readiness in the German-speaking region. In the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung he compares the low vaccination rates in Switzerland and Austria with the very high in Denmark. There are also major differences within a country. “Italians who live in (the mountain region) South Tyrol do not want to be vaccinated. It is clear that there is a problem in the Alpine countries,” says Blume.
According to the researcher, the explanation is a typical self-will. Over the centuries, strong local forms of government have developed in the more difficult to reach valleys of the Alpine country, in which people are traditionally less inclined to listen to the central government in the capital. This is often considered too far away and insufficiently informed about local matters. In addition, the remote regions have traditionally been fertile ground for all kinds of persistent conspiracy theories, including anti-Semitic ones. Blume also mentions the influence of many esoteric (spiritual) movements that arose in Switzerland and Austria, which often prefer to rely on the healing power of ‘nature’ rather than on medicines.
Language would also play a major role in the partial rejection of the vaccine. In many Alpine regions, communication is still in local dialects, with the idea that people do not want to be prescribed anything in the Hochdeutsch that in the experience comes from elsewhere and is therefore less to be trusted. According to Blume, there is also an age-old tendency in the remote regions to evoke an enemy image in frightened times. “When the crops failed, it was the witches’ fault, when the plague came, it was the Jews.” With corona, people would rather think that it is all not so bad and that it is a conspiracy by multinationals and Jews, Blume thinks.
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