The Albanian government has postponed the start of the academic year for students by one week, until 18 October, due to a lack of uptake in COVID-19 vaccines.
Vaccines are mandatory for students over 18 who want to attend university, along with all faculty staff. Those not wishing to be vaccinated must present a negative COVID-19 test each week, at their own expense. The government has opened vaccination centres on each campus, facilitating vaccines for anyone who wants them.
A recent survey conducted by an Albanian student organisation showed that 75% of university students are against mandatory vaccination. Furthermore, just 31% have received a vaccine.
Vaccine hesitancy is likely due to concerns over the authorities’ management of disinformation, the prevalence of conspiracy theories in mainstream media, and a lack of response in combating such issues.
Albania has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, even compared to its neighbours. This is despite the fact that Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and some of the Chinese vaccine Sinovac, are widely available to citizens for free.
(Alice Taylor | Exit.al)