How Germany is trying to convince Covid vaccine sceptics

A man reads a sign for a pop-up vaccination clinic
A man reads a sign for a pop-up vaccination clinic. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | David Young
Though Germany's vaccination campaign has stalled in recent months, health experts believe there is a large group of Covid vaccine hesitants who can still be reached by better information.

As of Wednesday, 64.5 percent of the German population were fully vaccinated, while 68.3 percent had been given at least one jab. However, progress has been slow over the past three months. 

Holding a press conference in Berlin alongside Robert Koch Institute chair Lothar Wieler and the Standing Vaccines Commission’s Thomas Mertens, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) faced questions about whether Germany would be able to hit its vaccination targets despite vaccine scepticism and hesitancy. 

The number of people getting vaccinated daily in Germany has been dropping consistently since July, but the goverment believes that many of those who haven’t yet got vaccinated simply need more convincing. 

To encourage the hesitant group to get their jabs, Spahn said that the government was trying to reach people on social media and messaging platforms like WhatsApp where confusing information on vaccine safety was being disseminated.

“It sometimes very challenging to address all of that,” he told reporters. “You see what’s going on in society around the topic of vaccination, and even in your own family and partners.”

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Among those who haven’t yet chosen to get vaccinated, the health ministry believes only a small proportion of people are hardline anti-vaxxers, while many others simply need to be given the right information.

“There’s a small group of hardliners who will never get vaccinated – we knew that before, that’s not a new thing,” said vaccines expert Mertens.

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“There’s a larger group who can be convinced. I’m an optimist, and I still believe that it’s our job to convince these people. And it works as well, even if it’s very time intensive.”

Spahn pointed to the example of Bremen – where 79.3 percent of the population are fully jabbed – as a sign of what Germany as a whole could achieve with its vaccination campaign. 

“Looking at the north-west of the country, states like Bremen show that those high vaccination rates are possible nationwide,” he said.


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