Low vaccine uptake among Central and Eastern European communities - CSO

CSO figures show 44 per cent of central and eastern Europeans in Ireland vaccinated

The uptake rate of Covid-19 vaccines in Ireland among adults from Central and Eastern Europe is less than half the rate of inoculation among Irish nationals, new figures show.

Vaccine uptake rates for Irish nationals stood at 90 per cent, compared to 44 per cent among Central and Eastern European immigrant communities, according to Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures published on Thursday.

Among 18-24 year olds from Central and Eastern Europe, Covid-19 vaccination rates were only 36 per cent.

Vaccination rates increased to 44 per cent among those aged 65 and above in these communities , compared to 96 per cent of Irish nationals aged 65 or older.

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Uptake rates were highest among the 45-64 year olds from Central and Eastern Europe, with 51 per cent vaccinated.

There was a sizeable vaccination gap between men and women. Some 49 per cent of women from central and eastern European countries living in Ireland had received the vaccine, compared to 39 per cent of men.

Rates

The statistics were based on vaccination rates of people living in Ireland who had come from countries that joined the European Union in 2004.

That includes the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia.

The vaccine uptake rates of British nationals in the Republic was 79 per cent, and 70 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds.

Vaccination rates of foreign nationals from other European countries were also lower than the overall average.

Slightly more than two thirds of people from original EU countries living in Ireland, such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, were vaccinated.

The figures were based on Health Service Executive (HSE) vaccination data up to 10th September.

The CSO data showing low vaccine take-up by eastern European nationals living in Ireland tallies with the numbers of unvaccinated people from these countries being treated in hospital and intensive care units.

One ICU doctor who did not want to be named said they had treated a number of unvaccinated eastern Europeans with Covid-19. They said there seemed to be a higher level of vaccine hesitancy among this population, leaving them more susceptible to the virus.

Dr Dónal Sammin, the Department of Agriculture’s director of laboratories who oversees a programme of antigen testing in meat plants, said that he had seen a higher level of vaccine hesitancy among eastern and southern European nationals working in meat plants.

“There doesn’t seem to be a rabid anti-vaccine sentiment – more a sense of people’s distrust of authority so there just seems to be a bit more caretaking in terms of how it is explained to people,” he said.

Contract tracing

One source involved in contact tracing said there have been more and more eastern European names appearing on contact sheets of people who become infected with Covid-19 in recent months, and they are a part of the population that appear more susceptible to infection and transmission as a result of vaccine hesitancy.

“It is mainly eastern Europeans. These people are not getting vaccinated in their own countries so they are not going to get vaccinated over here,” the source said.

“They are maybe not listening to Irish news. They are more tuned into what is happening in their own countries. They are probably not aware that it is their compatriots that are ending up hospitals.”

A senior HSE source said migrant communities were one group officials were increasingly seeking to target with messaging to encourage vaccination.

Poland's ambassador Anna Sochanska said the embassy did not have data on the number of Poles in Ireland who have received the vaccine but that it regularly informed the Polish-Irish community about the Government's vaccination programme and Covid regulations.

A spokeswoman for the Romanian ambassador Laurentiu Stefan said that he was encouraging Romanians in Ireland who have doubts about the positive effects of the vaccine to go and get the jab as soon as possible: "It may save your life and the life of others."

The CSO noted the figures may be an “underrepresentation” of vaccine rates for immigrant communities, as it did not include “those who may have been vaccinated outside of the State”.

Teresa Buczkowska, integration manager at the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said there was a “high level of misinformation” circulating in Polish communities in Ireland. Misinformation about vaccine side effects originating in Poland was being shared on Facebook and other social media platforms among Polish people here, she said.

Ms Buczkowska said the Government’s message about vaccine safety and solidarity “never reached migrant communities.”

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times