In light of recent events, it is becoming more apparent that anti-vaccination sentiments are strong in the Czech Republic.
Pro-Trump protesters marched from Wenceslas Square to the US Embassy in Prague. Some of the demonstrators sported yellow star badges, embedded with the word ‘Neočkovaný’ (Unvaccinated).
These badges were meant to imitate the ‘Star of David’ badges, which served to identify Jews during Nazi Germany, and even in the Middle ages. Ultimately, they were badges of shame.
Czech Chamber of Deputies member and politician, Lubomír Volný, shedded light and explained this symbolism. He stated that “in due time, vaccinated citizens will be favored, while the people who remain unvaccinated become second-class citizens, in a sense”. This explains why the demonstrators wore the yellow stars of David.
The protesters’ choice of sporting these badges has been strongly criticized and condemned by many politicians and relevant figures.
The Federation of Jewish Communities and The Foundation for Holocaust Victims in the Czech Republic, for example, have taken notice of this movement and have posted on Facebook stating that the display was greatly disrespectful to the victims of the Holocaust, and an act of abuse.
The individual or group who started this movement remains unknown, but among many other factors, this controversial display has shed light on the general mistrust of Czech citizens against the newly-distributed vaccines.
Richard Q. Turcsanyi from Palacký University, who led a regional survey to find out if Czechs wanted to be vaccinated, claims that “anti-vax sentiments are strong in the Czech Republic, largely due to the fact that many Czechs lack trust in their own government”.
On top of that, the government has also been unsuccessful in countering the spread of disinformation on anti-vaccination messages and propaganda. Jan Blatný, Minister of Health for the Czech Republic, has been criticized by another government official, for not having put a campaign against disinformation into action.
Citizens remained skeptical, even after Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) received his vaccine publicly. Conspiracy theories spread online, claiming that he was injected with a placebo, while others claimed it was a scam.
“In the Czech Republic, there is generally a problem with media literacy. People don’t really check what is written on the internet,” said Jan Cemper, editor-in-chief of the anti-misinformation website Manipulátoři.cz.
Consequently, survey results show that only about 30-40% of Czechs want to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Czech pollster, Stem, found that only 40% of the citizens were willing to be vaccinated.
On the other hand, the survey conducted by Palacky University Olomouc found that only 30% of the citizens were willing to receive the vaccine.