Behavioral scientist: Vaccination affected by socioeconomic background

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AstraZeneca vaccine. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

It is widely believed that the more skeptical attitudes toward vaccination among the Russian-speaking part of the population are down to different information space. Behavioral scientist Andero Uusberg says that decisions of vaccination are influenced most by socioeconomic background, convenience of immunization and experience of others.

Data from the Health Board suggests that predominantly Russian-speaking areas of Estonia have lower vaccination coverage. University of Tartu researcher Andero Uusberg says that the influence of where a person gets their information should not be overestimated and that socioeconomic position and just how dangerous the virus is believed to be also play a part.

"Looking at non-Estonians who do not wish to be vaccinated, they are characterized by the same things as Estonians who are reluctant," Uusberg told "Aktuaalne kaamera."

People in Estonia have similar concerns when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination.

"People who would rather not inoculate themselves are worried about side-effects, not convinced of the effectiveness and permanency of vaccines and are often part of communities the other members of which also do not hold vaccination to be very important," he said.

Even though patterns of media usage differ a great deal from one person to the next irrespective of nationality, the interest of the Russian-speaking part of the population has migrated towards the Estonian information space recently.

"People have their favorite channels that largely determines where they get their news. There is no universal Estonian or Russian information sphere. /…/ Both Estonian and Russian-speakers include those who believe nonsense and those who rely on official information," Ragne Kõuts-Klemm, docent of journalistic sociology at the University of Tartu, said.

Different information to spark distrust in the AstraZeneca vaccine has seen a lot of people opt out.

Because vaccination decisions largely depend on how convenient the process and experience of other people, Andero Uusberg sees no reason why Estonia couldn't ultimately immunize 70-75 percent of the population.

"Storms seem worse in the moment than in hindsight. While it might seem that what is happening in connection with AstraZeneca has completely derailed vaccination efforts in Estonia, once we start seeing more and more people who have clearly gained from being immunized, it will spread like any other beneficial innovation," Uusberg said.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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