Migrants and vaccination statistics

There is an opinion that migrants, including Russian speakers, spoil the statistics on vaccination, not wanting to be vaccinated. Whether this is so, shows a new study in Germany, which refutes such conclusions.

It is customary to write DWthat a large percentage of those who do not want to be vaccinated against coronavirus are migrants in Germany, and the natives of the country are readily vaccinated. Local media write about this, according to the chief virologist of the Charité clinic, Christian Drosten, says the ruling mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffay. But this is not entirely true, which was confirmed by the latest study by specialists from the Robert Koch Institute. It was published last Thursday, February 3rd.

A sociological survey among the German population was conducted in five languages, including Russian. And, as it turned out, there are indeed more unvaccinated migrants. But the reason lies not in the fact that all of them without exception are anti-vaxxers. Elisa Wulcotte from RKI notes, presenting the results of the study at an online conference:

“It is noteworthy that among the unvaccinated, the willingness to be vaccinated is higher among migrants than among Germans. Therefore, we can assume that among the unvaccinated migrants there are still many people who are preparing to be vaccinated. But the vaccination campaign among indigenous people who agree to be vaccinated, apparently has covered almost everyone.

Why is a significant number of vaccinated migrants still not vaccinated? An important factor is poor knowledge of the language and a number of other reasons, says Eliza Wulkotte:

“This is the level of education and income, age – the older, the more vaccinated. Therefore, the vaccination campaign should be aimed primarily at people who do not speak German well and with a low socioeconomic status.”

Psychological factors also play a role, such as trust in vaccines and in the German healthcare system as a whole. The higher the level of trust, the higher the willingness of migrants to be vaccinated. And, as the study showed, migrants still have a little more prejudice about vaccines than the natives of the country. Among the most significant: 58% of female migrants are afraid of becoming infertile (among German women this figure is 51%), and men are seriously afraid for potency.

The RKI study did not set itself the goal of comparing the responses of migrants from different countries, as the sample was too small for this. However, this question was partially answered by Doris Schaeffer, a professor at the University of Bielefeld. She compared immigrants from the former USSR and from Turkey:

“The surprise for us was that, contrary to popular belief, the general medical competence of these migrants turned out to be no worse, and in general even better, than that of the general population. The same goes for the experience of obtaining digital information. Migrants search for information on the Internet in different languages and on the websites of their countries of origin. At the same time, like native Germans, it is quite difficult for them to assess the quality of information, its neutrality and truthfulness.

Motzkan Ehari, head of information portal Handbook Germany, adds:

“There is also a downside. A lot depends on what sites they get information from, what stories the websites of the countries of origin tell them, what fakes and legends are exaggerated there, what conspiracy theories are being spread.”

In this regard, Professor Schaeffer notes that the authors of the Bielefeld University study found one significant difference: immigrants from Turkey have a worse understanding of the need for medical prevention, they know much less about vaccinations than visitors from the former USSR. Over 30% of residents with Turkish roots admit that they lack reliable information on the topic of vaccination, while among Russian-speakers only 18% of such people.

The experience of Bremen, which has the highest percentage of vaccinated residents (87%) and the highest proportion of migrants of all German federal states, is indicative. From the very beginning, he made a double bet: both on large vaccination centers and on mobile groups. The latter traveled to areas densely populated by migrants and communicated with them in their native language, says Kai Bultman, the organizer of the vaccination campaign in Bremen.

When organizing mobile services, socio-economic factors were also taken into account. For example, some migrants were deterred from getting vaccinated by the need to spend money on public transport to travel to the vaccination center. And this is not so little – a ticket costs 2.85 euros only one way. Only later, when vaccination of the 5-year-old age group began, were families provided with free travel by bus or tram if they had an appointment.

In response to a question from DW, Bultmann admitted: “Of course, it is impossible to convince everyone, because some people have many things deeply rooted, in particular, distrust of the institutions of state power.” Well, aggressive anti-vaxxers cannot be discounted. It is unlikely that it will be possible to convince people who firmly believe that they are right about the obvious.

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