Every third person in Germany would refuse a COVID-19 vaccination
For months now, doctors and politicians in Germany and around the world have been pinning their hopes on one thing: once an effective coronavirus vaccine is available, then normal life can resume once again.
But a representative study, carried out by the World Economic Forum (WEF) together with market researchers from Ipsos, casts doubt on this prognosis. Not only do many people in Germany believe that an effective COVID-19 vaccine will be a long time coming, but nearly a third say they would forego immunisation.
World sceptical about possibility of coronavirus vaccine this year
Between July 24 and August 7, the WEF asked nearly 20.000 people in 27 countries worldwide when they expect a coronavirus vaccine to become available and, if one were available, whether they would get it. The results are sobering: apparently, many people believe that an effective, well-tolerated vaccine is still a relatively distant prospect.
Overall, a slim majority of survey respondents (59 percent) do not believe that a vaccine will be ready this year. Scepticism is even higher in Germany, where 77 percent of those questioned disagreed with the idea that a vaccine will be available to them in 2020 - despite the fact that two German companies, CureVac and Biontech, are currently far ahead in the global search for a new vaccine.
Globally, optimism is highest in China, with 87 percent of adults surveyed expecting a vaccine this year. Apart from Germany, pessimism is highest in Belgium, Japan and Poland, where fewer than one in four are anticipating a vaccine in 2020.
Three quarters of people worldwide would take vaccine
Another takeaway from the survey is concerning. Overall, three out of every four people worldwide state that they want to be vaccinated against coronavirus, if a vaccine were available. In Germany, the figure is slightly lower, at 67 percent.
While this seems like quite a lot, especially since we are talking about a new vaccine, this positive picture is put into perspective when you compare it with other vaccination rates. Over 90 percent of the German population, for instance, is vaccinated against chickenpox and rubella.
According to the survey, a total of 36 percent of Germans are expressly planning on having a COVID-19 vaccination, and 31 percent are leaning towards having one. That leaves 20 percent who are leaning towards not having one, and 13 percent who are sure that they want to forego immunisation. This suggests that one in three people in Germany would refuse a coronavirus vaccine.
According to the survey, people in China need the least persuasion; only three percent would refuse a COVID-19 vaccine. Confidence is also high in Brazil, Australia, India, the UK and South Korea, where between 85 and 90 percent are in favour of immunisation. The only countries even more sceptical than Germany are Italy (34 percent would refuse vaccine), South Africa (36 percent), France (41 percent), Hungary (44 percent), Poland (45 percent) and Russia (47 percent).
Herd immunity to prevent uncontrollable spread of coronavirus
Arnaud Bernaert, of the WEF, finds the survey results concerning: “The lack of trust in vaccines is enough to impair the effectiveness of the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. His comments were echoed by Hubertus Bardt, Head of Science at the Institute of German Economy in Cologne: “A vaccine only helps if actually used. Delayed use… also delays the return to an everyday life in which most restrictions no longer apply.”
However, if what is shown in the WEF survey actually happened, take-up of the vaccine could actually just about be high enough. Experts assume that around 60 to 70 percent of the population would need to be immune to coronavirus to stop the epidemic from spreading uncontrollably.
But - if the two thirds of German citizens who are now showing their willingness to be vaccinated are reluctant to follow words with deeds, herd immunity could run short once again, and thus delay the return to normalcy in Germany.