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The EU's Best Shot: overcoming vaccine hesitancy in marginalised local identities

Hosted by LSE IDEAS and the Ratiu Forum

Online public event


Dr Juliana Onwumere

Dr Juliana Onwumere

Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience KCL

Dr Pauline Paterson

Dr Pauline Paterson

Co-Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Paul Schmidt

Paul Schmidt

Secretary General, Austrian Society for European Politics (OGFE)


Dr Joan Costa-Font

Dr Joan Costa-Font

Associate Professor in Health Economics at the Department of Health Policy, LSE

Local identities across Central and South-Eastern Europe have seen a sustained distrust and scepticism in the region when it comes to vaccine uptake. How can the EU overcome this hurdle?

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, an ever-growing divide between Western and Eastern Europe in terms of vaccination uptake has become more apparent. But what’s driving it? And what can be done to overcome these challenges?

The London School of Economics and Political Science's study into institutional district of vaccines found that countries with a Soviet legacy were linked to reduced trust in vaccines. The longer a person had been exposed to the Soviet regime, the less trust they had for this medicine.

The Central and South-Eastern European countries who experienced these Soviet authorities still feel the effects today. Democracy in the region remains fragile and distrust of governments is also fuelled by widespread corruption and a disregard for the rule of law. Local identities have seen a sustained distrust and scepticism in the region when compared to the rest of Europe. And is due to a number of factors including; coordinated disinformation campaigns, a misunderstanding of science, and a significant lack of trust in the government.

Within the borders of the EU, vaccination uptake amongst local identities across the landscape has been present since the onset of this pandemic. There is a significant risk that vaccine uptake for COVID-19 will also be lower among minority ethnic groups and barriers to uptake must be understood and addressed within any future vaccination programme.

This 90-minute webinar brings together leading policy experts, practitioners and academics to discuss this timely issue. How can the EU successful overcome these challenges? How can we create a world safe for all? Join us on 2 March to discuss and have the chance to ask your questions to the panel.

Meet the speakers

Juliana Onwumere is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience King’s College London. She is also a Consultant Clinical Psychologist in the South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK. Her complementary research and clinical interests focus on the intersectionality of mental health problems, family relationships, and health across the lifespan. She is interested in caregiving relationships affected by violence and the interface between mental and physical health. Juliana has a growing interest in health inequalities particularly in racial and ethnic minority groups. Her work includes the development of evidence-based psycho-social interventions and workforce training and supervision initiatives to support their increased access by underserved groups.

Pauline Paterson is Co-Director of The Vaccine Confidence Project with Dr Heidi Larson at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has been researching issues of public confidence in immunisations since 2010. Specific research activities include qualitative analysis of parental reasons for not vaccinating their child with influenza vaccine in England, analysis of concerns surrounding HPV vaccine in India and Japan, and a systematic review on public trust in vaccination. She is a member of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Immunisation in partnership with Public Health England. Pauline has also researched HIV risk perception in sub-Saharan Africa, and feasibility and acceptability of PrEP in Kenya, and carried out a systematic review on conceptualizations of uncertainty and risk, and implications for uptake and use of biomedical HIV prevention technologies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Paul Schmidt has been Secretary General of the Austrian Society for European Politics (OFGE) since 2009. Previously he has worked at the Oesterreichische Nationalbank, both in Vienna and at their Representative Office in Brussels at the Permanent Representation of Austria to the European Union. His current work mainly focuses on the analysis and discussion of topical issues regarding European integration. Schmidt’s comments and op-eds are regularly published in Austrian as well as international media.

Meet the chair

Joan Costa-Font is Associate Professor in Health Economics at the Department of Health Policy, LSE. He is the co-director of the MSc International Health Policy, and the bulk of his current teaching and research is on behavioural health economics, as well as issues on political economy and ageing and caregiving. His expert areas are the global challenges of population ageing and health inequalities. He has three board research areas (i) healthy ageing and caregiving, (ii) health behaviours and inequality and (iii) governance and health; and has published widely in economics and other social science journals.

More about this event

Event hashtag: #2020Visions

LSE IDEAS (@lseideas) is LSE's foreign policy think tank. Through sustained engagement with policymakers and opinion-formers, IDEAS provides a forum that informs policy debate and connects academic research with the practice of diplomacy and strategy.

The Ratiu Forum (@forumratiu) is a joint initiative by the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation, the Ratiu Democracy Centre and LSE IDEAS. Romania and the Balkan region are priority areas of interest for The Ratiu Forum. The Ratiu Forum operates at three main levels: sharing expertise through the support of LSE IDEAS, holding regular workshops and lectures, both in-house and public, on subjects of topical interest, and expanding external outreach through partnerships with similar institutions.

This event forms part of LSE’s Shaping the Post-COVID World initiative, a series imagining what the world could look like after the crisis, and how we get there. The series will lead up to the LSE Festival 2022, which this year is taking place from Monday 13 to Saturday 18 June 2022.

The event image used, 'Protester at protest against vax mandate protest holding sign with message "No forced vaccine"' by Ivan Radic is licenced under CC BY 2.0.


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