- Borislav Ivanov
The widespread vaccine skepticism in Bulgaria
According to COVID-19 figures, Bulgaria has the highest mortality rate per million of population in the EU. Excess mortality in the nation is higher than practically anyplace else in Europe.
Nonetheless, the majority of Bulgarians are still unwilling to receive the vaccine. The country has the lowest vaccination rate in the EU, with just under 29 percent of the population completely immunized. Anti-vaccine protests are underway in Bulgaria, and as a result, the southeastern European country appears to be losing the war against COVID-19 and the omicron wave.
On January 12, hundreds of individuals gathered outside the Bulgarian parliament in Sofia to oppose the so-called "green passport." It will be available in Bulgaria in October 2021 as confirmation of immunization, recent recovery from COVID-19, or a recent negative test. To enter restaurants, pubs, and retail centers, visitors must provide a green passport. Many people rely on it to function.
Credit: skynesher, iStock
One participant during the rally offered a speech that went viral on the Internet and social media. “I will not say my name so that I am not repressed by those who are in parliament, because they are not Bulgarians. But I will say for myself - I studied biology for six years and I know that these are not vaccines! These are experimental cocktails that put a chip in you and things that will destroy your freedom. You will be managed through 5G systems. So, no one gets vaccinated!!”
The woman, like other protestors, is a supporter of Vazrazhdane ("Revival"), a nationalist, COVID-skeptic party that was elected to parliament for the first time in last November's election with over 5% of the vote.
Despite current record infection levels and a high fatality rate, many Bulgarians feel the COVID-19 vaccination is more harmful than the disease itself. “Les than 30% of adults in Bulgaria are vaccinated,” says Dimitar Ganev, an opinion pollster with the Trend research group. “There are 20% who have not been vaccinated but plan to obtain the vaccination. Approximately half of those polled are anti-vaccination.”
This doubt benefits Vazrazhdane. "Nearly 70% of Bulgarians oppose the green vaccination passport," Ganev said. "Vazrazhdane was able to enter parliament thanks to the anti-vaccination passport campaign." The Euroskeptic, pro-Kremlin party was created in 2014, but it never made it over the 4 percent threshold. The vast majority of surveys performed prior to the November 2021 election failed to foresee its arrival into parliament.
Vazrazhdane benefits from this mistrust. "Nearly 70% of Bulgarians also oppose the green vaccination passport," Ganev continues. "The battle against the vaccination passport allowed Vazrazhdane to enter parliament." The Euroskeptic, pro-Kremlin party was created in 2014, but it never made it over the 4% threshold. The vast majority of surveys done prior to the November 2021 election failed to foresee its entry into parliament.
During the January 12 protests, Vazrazhdane delegates attempted to unlock the doors of parliament to allow anti-vaccine activists in. Yet, only a few days before, investigative inquiry revealed that one-third of Vazrazhdane's delegates had been immunized. The party's head, Kostadin Kostadinov, has frequently referred to the vaccination as a "experimental liquid." Now he's backpedaling, delivering a qualifying statement in which he says he favors vaccine freedom - including for members of his own party.