The EU's Best Shot: overcoming vaccine hesitancy in marginalised local identities

Local identities across Central and South-Eastern Europe have seen a sustained distrust and scepticism in the region when it comes to vaccine uptake. How can the EU overcome this hurdle?

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, an ever-growing divide between Western and Eastern Europe in terms of vaccination uptake has become more apparent. But what’s driving it? And what can be done to overcome these challenges?

The London School of Economics and Political Science's study into institutional distrust of vaccines found that countries with a Soviet legacy were linked to reduced trust in vaccines. The longer a person had been exposed to the Soviet regime, the less trust they had for this medicine. The Central and South-Eastern European countries who experienced these Soviet authorities still feel the effects today. Democracy in the region remains fragile and distrust of governments is also fuelled by widespread corruption and a disregard for the rule of law. Local identities have seen a sustained distrust and scepticism in the region when compared to the rest of Europe. And it is due to a number of factors including; coordinated disinformation campaigns, a misunderstanding of science, and a significant lack of trust in the government.


The EU's Best Shot


The EU's Best Shot

This webinar was held on Wednesday 2 March.

Meet the speakers and chair

Juliana Onwumere is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience King’s College London. She is also a Consultant Clinical Psychologist in the South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK. Her complementary research and clinical interests focus on the intersectionality of mental health problems, family relationships, and health across the lifespan. She is interested in caregiving relationships affected by violence and the interface between mental and physical health. Juliana has a growing interest in health inequalities particularly in racial and ethnic minority groups. Her work includes the development of evidence-based psycho-social interventions and workforce training and supervision initiatives to support their increased access by underserved groups.

Pauline Paterson is Co-Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project with Dr Heidi Larson at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has been researching issues of public confidence in immunisations since 2010. Specific research activities include qualitative analysis of parental reasons for not vaccinating their child with influenza vaccine in England, analysis of concerns surrounding HPV vaccine in India and Japan, and a systematic review on public trust in vaccination. She is a member of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Immunisation in partnership with Public Health England. Pauline has also researched HIV risk perception in sub-Saharan Africa, and feasibility and acceptability of PrEP in Kenya, and carried out a systematic review on conceptualizations of uncertainty and risk, and implications for uptake and use of biomedical HIV prevention technologies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Paul Schmidt has been Secretary General of the Austrian Society for European Politics (OFGE) since 2009. Previously he has worked at the Oesterreichische Nationalbank, both in Vienna and at their Representative Office in Brussels at the Permanent Representation of Austria to the European Union. His current work mainly focuses on the analysis and discussion of topical issues regarding European integration. Schmidt’s comments and op-eds are regularly published in Austrian as well as international media.

Joan Costa-Font is Associate Professor in Health Economics at the Department of Health Policy, LSE. He is the co-director of the MSc International Health Policy, and the bulk of his current teaching and research is on behavioural health economics, as well as issues on political economy and ageing and caregiving. His expert areas are the global challenges of population ageing and health inequalities. He has three board research areas (i) healthy ageing and caregiving, (ii) health behaviours and inequality and (iii) governance and health; and has published widely in economics and other social science journals.

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