As Switzerland kicked off a mass Covid-19 vaccination drive, riot police formed lines around Zurich’s main train station. Their mission was to protect a new “vaccination village” in the station hall from angry protesters. Some protesters carried Trycheln, the giant cowbells that are a symbol of rural Switzerland, where vaccine hesitancy is high.
Despite being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Switzerland has the lowest Covid-19 vaccination rate in western Europe. More than one-third of the Swiss population — 33.6 per cent — have not had a first dose of a Covid vaccine. Switzerland is one of the wealthy European nations at the heart of Europe with surprisingly poor vaccination rates.
In Austria, 33.1% are yet to take a single dose of the vaccine, while it is 30.4% in Germany and Covid-19 infections are surging in all 3 countries. The high levels of hesitancy among adults of all age groups have increased scrutiny of the factors driving vaccine scepticism in European countries.
In Germany, resistance to the vaccine is prominent in southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg as well as in eastern regions such as Saxony. Statistics show that 14 million people who are eligible to receive the jab have so far decided not to take the vaccine in Germany.
In Switzerland, vaccine hesitancy is rampant in rural, German-speaking eastern cantons as compared to French-speaking west and Italian-speaking south.
Public health researchers suggest that authorities in German-speaking countries have tended to be far more dispassionate in their health messaging. The lack of emotionally resonant pro-vaccine messaging has meant conspiracy theories have filled that void, say researchers.
Daily caseloads of Covid-19 in Austria and Germany hit their highest levels of the entire pandemic this week.