What do we know about Austria’s vaccine sceptics?

What do we know about Austria’s vaccine sceptics?
A coronavirus protest in Austria. Photo: ALEX HALADA / AFP
Women in Austria are more likely to be sceptical of the Covid vaccine than men, while there are clear geographical differences in attitudes to the jab.

After a slow initial rollout due to a lack of supply, Austria’s vaccination campaign has hit a new hurdle – vaccine scepticism. 

Experts believe more than 80 to 85 percent of people need to be vaccinated in order to reach ‘herd immunity’, which would hamper community spread and protect those who are unable to get the vaccine due to medical reasons. 

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However, vaccine scepticism has brought the chances of reaching this figure into doubt. 

In total, just 74 percent of Austrians have indicated they are willing to be vaccinated, a Gallup poll conducted in late July found. 

This figure includes those who have already had one or both vaccines, along with those who have not yet been vaccinated but intend to do so. 

Of the 26 percent who have indicated they are unwilling, 15 percent have said they will definitely not get the vaccine, while nine percent have indicated they will probably not get it. 

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This figure is reduced slightly from the corresponding figure in November 2020, where around 30 percent of people indicated they were sceptical of the vaccine and would not get it. 

Who is unwilling to be vaccinated? 

There is a regional variance when it comes to being sceptical of the vaccine in Austria. 

In the states of Salzburg and Upper Austria, the percentage of vaccine sceptics is around one third of the population. 

There is also variance when it comes to gender in Austria, with more women than men being sceptical of the vaccine. 

A study from the Austria Corona Panel Project at the University of Vienna released in early August also found that 15 percent of Austrians refused to get the vaccine. 

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In the study, 23 percent of women indicated they were sceptical, compared with only 18 percent of men. 

Katharina T. Paul, one of the scientists who completed the survey, said the reason for this was a greater degree of concern – primarily due to women being a target for misinformation. 

Paul said false information had circulated surrounding the impact of the vaccine on fertility, while women tend to be impacted more often by actual side effects of the vaccine such as thrombosis. 

The authors also said that women were more likely to be sceptical of the vaccine as they tended to make decisions regarding whether their children would be vaccinated. 

“Being confronted with this decision has something to do with having a critical attitude to the vaccination.”

The authors however said that despite the higher proportion of scepticism among women, they were more likely to change their mind on vaccines than men when presented facts about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. 

Currently, around 54 percent of people are fully vaccinated in Austria – two percent higher than the European Union average. A further six percent of people have had one dose of the vaccine. 

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