Germany’s vaccination plan calls for every adult to have been vaccinated by September. This target is likely to be missed not because of a lack of availability but because residents are refusing to be vaccinated.
At the forefront of the problem is Germany’s investment in the AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine developed in association with Oxford University is being widely rejected by Germans in favor of the Pfizer/BioNTech option. There are a variety of reasons.
The most obvious difference is in the efficacy of the injections. AstraZeneca offers, after just the first dose, a resistance of more than 70% to contracting COVID-19 and a reduction of transmission by about 67%. The resistance jumps to more than 80% after a second dose, with very close to 100% reduction in severe cases requiring hospitalization. Pfizer/BioNTech offers even better results, showing over 90% efficacy after a second dose. It’s reasonable for people who have two options to prefer the somewhat better choice.
That difference is not enough to explain the wide swath of people who are simply refusing the AstraZeneca vaccine. Faced with the options of likely not contracting the virus and not being hospitalized if it does happen or the chance to die following severe pneumonia-related symptoms, few would opt for death.
German medical professionals are fueling the fears because of their reluctance to take the UK vaccine; those cases seem to be driven primarily by the lowered efficacy. For people who are in regular contact with COVID-19 patients, the greater resistance can be a striking concern.
For those who are likely to have irregular exposure, though, it seems that simple ignorance is holding sway over people’s decisions. The AstraZeneca rejection by German medical workers is simply one more element of “proof” which is being irrationally embraced.
The primary stated reason for not getting the AstraZeneca vaccine are the side effects, which are known to be greater than those for Pfizer/BioNTech. Those well-documented effects are short-term headaches and body pain which tends to be centered around the injection site.
Rumors and misinformation have suggested the results are far worse. A German official’s insistence that AstraZeneca had only 8% efficacy – an error fueled by the official’s inability to understand basic math – fueled conspiracy theorists that believe that the disease’s effects are at least partially contrived by world governments. While the “anti-mask” advocates from the United States have received widespread attention, similar views are held in populations throughout the world. Germany and France alike have seen large and sometimes violent demonstrations against the wearing of protective gear, with some participants tying the masks to concepts like COVID-19 being spread by 5G terminals or simply being a flu that a global illuminati is using to initiate tracking on everyone. Stepping away from the conspiracy concerns – although undoubtedly fueled by their efforts – rumors have swirled of terrible side effects ranging from amputations and death to constant severe pain and mental retardation.
Despite long wait lines for the vaccination in Germany, they are now backed up on AstraZeneca vaccines. Anyone who has been cleared for getting a vaccine can receive the AstraZeneca dose quickly, but people are refusing and German officials are becoming worried; those doses have limited shelf lives.
The situation has degraded to the point where Germany is now attempting to direct the AstraZeneca vaccine to front-line workers like police, teachers, firefighters and grocery clerks. Prominent German and EU leaders have offered to take the vaccine. Still, the populace remains wary to the point of aviodance.
A similar situation is developing in France, where (as noted) similar support for conspiracy theory can be seen.