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Gallup International Balkan Polls Bulgarians About Reasons to Refuse COVID-19 Vaccination

The lack of sufficient credible information on COVID-19 vaccines, recovery from COVID-19 and the presence of chronic diseases, are among the most common reasons for Bulgarians to refuse COVID-19 vaccination until now. The data comes from a representative study of the Bulgarian population, conducted by Gallup International Balkan between February 24 and March 1, 2022 among 812 adult Bulgarians. The poll was commissioned by the Health Ministry to measure public attitudes before the start of the “+ME” campaign, which aims to increase awareness of the benefits of vaccines and vaccination against COVID-19.
The agency noted that the study is one of a kind, “which asked – in an open-ended question and with elements of an in-depth interview – about the reasons for non-vaccination in a national sample.” 
One-fifth (21.2 per cent) of the unvaccinated in Bulgaria indicated that the reason to refusе vaccination is recovery from the disease, 6.7 per cent of them showed the assumption (or knowledge) that they had a sufficient number of anti-bodies or a strong enough immunity. For nearly a fifth of respondents (19.1 per cent), the vaccine would actually be harmful due to comorbid conditions, allergies or other causes. The shares are similar for those who do not feel confident in COVID-19 vaccines (19.1per cent) and those who reject them in general (18.6 per cent).
Some 14.4 per cent of the unvaccinated Bulgarians believe that vaccines are not effective against COVID-19, special attention was given to the argument “[the vaccines] do not guarantee that one will not catch and recover from the disease”. The argument “[the vaccines] were created suspiciously fast” was seen in 11.7 per cent of respondents’ answers, the agency reported. 
The role of respondents’ personal physicians stood out. A considerable share (6 per cent of the reasons stated) of the unvaccinated described as a substantial reason the fact that they were not sufficiently encouraged by their physicians to take the vaccine or even that their physicians were against the COVID-19 vaccine.  
Respondents’ answers pointed at several diseases that have become clichés in the public consciousness as incompatible with COVID-19 vaccination – heart problems, high blood pressure, the presence or risk of thrombosis and other problems with blood clotting, and pulmonary disease. Apparently, so far these respondents had not received enough information to reassure them. There were also reactions against the feeling of coercion to vaccinate, waiting to vaccinate, divergent information, and many more.
The poll also focused on the reasons to vaccinate against COVID-19. Answers showed that the main reason for vaccination was the fear of the virus and the desire to protect themselves (26.7 per cent). Care for the family and others (17.7 per cent) and belief in science and medicine (14.1 per cent) were also among the leading reasons for Bulgarians to get vaccinated. The perception that vaccines are a tool that helps against serious illness and fatal outcome of the disease was shared by 10.3 per cent of respondents. The share of those who gave purely utilitarian reasons was not small – for travel abroad, free movement, getting a green certificate, among many others.
The study once again proved that the vaccinated are more likely to continue receiving the shot. Vaccination for the rest of the respondents would remain a challenge. Some 61.1 per cent of the vaccinated said they were willing to get more vaccines (even after the booster), if necessary. The proportion of those vaccinated who said they would no longer vaccinate against COVID-19 is 26.2 per cent.
Among the unvaccinated 77.7 per cent said they would not get the vaccine, and around one-tenth would get the jab, become fully vaccinated and so on. 
Large shares of respondents showed faith in various statements, testifying to the belittling of the pandemic, conspiracy theories and others. For instance, more than two-thirds of all respondents agreed that certain circles have an interest in keeping the pandemic going and not ending soon (66.8 per cent). More than half shared the opinion that the virus was created in a lab (57.3 per cent) and that the tension around COVID-19 is just noise and panic (55.2 per cent). For 60 per cent of respondents, COVID-19 is just a strong flu. 
Some 72.1 per cent of Bulgarians agreed that the virus is particularly dangerous for the elderly and people with comorbid conditions. Those who shared the opinion (and hope) that the pandemic is subsiding and ending soon were 63.1 per cent.  
Despite being a sensitive topic, respondents’ answers showed that at least half of adult Bulgarians could be considered as recovered from the disease. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they have been infected by and recovered from COVID-19 more than once. According to Gallup International Balkan, it would be a matter of expert judgment on how the data would be projected onto minors.