Ukraine struggles to convince population to take COVID vaccine

A street vendor wearing a protective face mask amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) waits for customers as she sells traditional Ukrainian dresses in central Lviv, Ukraine

After receiving its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine, Ukraine found itself in a new struggle against the pandemic — persuading its widely reluctant people to get the shot.

Although infections are rising sharply, Ukrainians are becoming increasingly opposed to vaccination: an opinion poll released earlier this month by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found 60% of the country’s people don’t want to get vaccinated, up from 40% a month earlier.

The resistance appears to be rooted in longstanding suspicion of vaccines dating back to the Soviet era, amplified by politicians’ allegations about low-quality vaccines, corruption scandals and misinformation spread through social media. Even more surprisingly, the reluctance still appears even among those highest at risk: medical workers.

In the mining town of Selydove, 700 kilometers (420 miles) east of Kyiv, only 5% of the medical staff agreed to be vaccinated.

“I decided not to get vaccinated. I doubt the quality of the vaccine. I’m afraid there will be side effects,” said Olena Obyedko, a 26-year-old nurse who works in the hospital’s intensive care ward for COVID-19 patients.

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