Inside the Mind of a German Anti-Vaxxer

By mid-February 2022, Germany had crossed the 120,000 Corona death mark while 74.8% of all Germans were fully vaccinated. In other words, approximately 25% of Germans remained unvaccinated as the Coronavirus pandemic entered its third year. A conversation with an opponent of vaccination might shed some light on those 25%.

A German anti-vaxxer called Rita Bock (not her real name), still hopes that Omicron will end the vaccination issue. Rita Bock is one of the unvaccinated 25% and she wants to stay that way. The conversation with Rita took place outside a local café. Rita lives in Findorff, a suburb of the north German port city of Bremen. She is in her mid-40s with two children and she used to work in the cultural sector, but plans to become a school teacher.

After a quiet summer, Covid-19 cases have increased significantly in those weeks, not only in former East-Germany’s Saxony and Thuringia, but also in Bavaria. The lack of understanding towards people like Rita Bock remains a problem in Germany. There are lots of discussion on Germany’s ever-favourite political talk shows about the anti-vaccination issues. This extends to hate messages on (anti-)social media and covidiots – a merger of Covid-19 and idiots.

In turn, anti-vaxxers mock the majority of Germans. Anti-vaxxers believe Germans blindly follow the pharmaceutical lobby – big pharma. Such polarisation splits circles of friends and families. If someone is not vaccinated and admits as much, the conversation quickly turns into a rather unpleasant silence. Many fear that communications would quickly become difficult leading to mutual alienation. Yet, the anti-vaxxer Rita Bock wants to try to talk.

Rita has the impression that the critique on vaccination gets too little attention in the media. On the other hand, she believes that many unvaccinated people in the intensive care units are not properly accounted for. And, she also does not see that her decision against vaccination has serious consequences for everyone. Since, unvaccinated people experiences restrictions, social pressure affects Rita Bock’s daily life. The everyday life of the unvaccinated is rather different from those vaccinated.

Any conversation with an anti-vaxxer is likely to derail. There are friendships at stake. “Are we still wearing a mask or not?,” asks Rita. Rita Bock wears a cardigan and jeans with her long blond hair tied at the back. She laughs and says, “I’m not afraid of Corona” as she quietly takes off her masks. Rita quickly moves to the informal “Du” almost automatically.

Rita is afraid and she believes that anti-vaxxers are currently being attacked. And, she seems affable and friendly while she talks calmly. At times, she raises her eyebrows in disapproval, for example, when the talk moves to 2G, which stands for vaccinated [geimpft] and recovered [genesen].

Rita can’t be met inside a café because she is no longer allowed in. She perceives this as harassment. “We have to stay outside as if we were dogs,” she says. Rita Bock goes to the local swimming pool regularly. As a teenager, she had a car accident while hitchhiking. She broke her back. “I need to swim or I’ll be in pain,” she explains. But even the pool is only accessible with proof of vaccination. “This is really hard for me … the reasons is 2G,” she added.

Until November 2021, Delta was the most common Coronavirus variant. If unvaccinated people have fewer contacts, then clinics will not be overloaded so quickly. Vaccinated people are less likely to get infected with Delta. It they do get infected, they are less contagious than unvaccinated people, according to Germany’s Robert Koch Institute.

Rita Bock says she always gets tested to avoid infections, “I have no problem with that.” But she still feels excluded. She says, “we no longer discriminate on the basis of skin color or gender, but on the basis of our individual life choices.” Getting vaccinated in order to be able to go to restaurants, or to the local swimming pool is out of the question for her. I will not be blackmailed, Rita says.

Rita Bock has a dicey relationship with conventional medicine. Throughout her life, she struggled with chronic inflammation. Antibiotics and cortisone didn’t really help. At some point, her doctors even told her she was cured. But she wasn’t. Eventually, Rita turned to a homeopath. With that, she started to feel better.

Today she says, “I can’t explain it either, but I’m really happy that I have a functioning immune system since then. Vaccinations are a great invention,” she admits, “but they are always an intervention.” Yet, Rita had her children vaccinated against measles, but not against mumps and rubella. But when it comes to Corona, Rita believes that it is always possible to find an alternative way.

Despite all this, the first TV pictures from Bergamo had hit her hard. She felt the lockdowns were necessary. At that time, Rita thought that she probably needs to get vaccinated. That changed last year. Rita had finished her university studies in the summer and listened to podcasts from biologists and doctors from the USA. On YouTube, she came across a video about Ivermectin. Ivermectin is a drug that is usually used to treat scabies and worm infestations. The FDA says, You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19.

Ivermectin helps with Covid, the video Rita was watching said. However, shortly after Rita had watched it, the video was deleted. In fact, there was a bit of a hype about Ivermectin in the USA in 2021. A group of doctors praised the drug as a miracle weapon against Corona – they were wrong! They also said that it has a preventive effect – wrong again! Neither the WHO nor the American health authorities have confirmed its effectiveness to this day. Nevertheless, many Americans got the medicine and took it for which some people had to be treated for poisoning.

Rita suspects that there must be a reason why posts about the alleged benefit of the drug were suddenly deleted. Rita believes it is censorship, as she calls it. She remains suspicious. Yet, when she searched the Internet, she found more positive reports about Ivermectin. These were also removed shortly after she had found them. She is convinced that Ivermectin helps, but the information was suppressed.

Rita says, “this is also very easy to explain … there is no money to be made with a drug that has been on the market for a long time.” Rita believes that there is an effective drug, but that politics and science are withholding this remedy from people because their patent protections have long expired and – unlike the new vaccination – they would not make any profit.

Rita really believes that the pharmaceutical lobby is strong. It all seems plausible to her. Rita also dealt with the mRNA vaccines. But she remains highly critical of them saying, “you can call this a gene therapy in good conscience.” She believes that gene therapy means that your DNA in the cell nucleus will change. German research says otherwise.

Germany’s Paul Ehrlich Institute found that this is very unlikely stating that this is not a recognisable risk. Rita Bock is not convinced. She says, “I would like to take a close look at all this for a good few years.”

In German society, Rita Bock is in the minority. Rita feels the need to arm herself against criticism. Perhaps that is the reason why she constantly reads up on the topic. Not only in the popular media, but also on Internet sites, such as the popular anti-vaxxer online magazine, Multipolar.

Rita believes that on Multipolar, you can find articles about the fact that the media mainly provides government propaganda and that the number of Corona patients in hospitals is massively exaggerated.

Yet, Rita remains an exception in her circle of friends and acquaintances. Like Rita, her husband does not want to get vaccinated. Yet, her closest friends are all vaccinated. Rita says, “they think it’s legitimate that I don’t want it.” When they meet, Rita tests herself beforehand, even if the friends do not demand it from her. There are additional experiences, for example, with your neighbor.

The neighbor’s children are of the same age. Rita and her children were always invited to family birthdays. Not this year. She believes she just has another opinion. It really hit me, she says.

Traditionally, Rita had voted for Germany’s environmental party, The Greens. But not last September during Germany’s federal election. Rita says, the Greens no longer work for me. She believes that the Greens portray all those who do not want to be vaccinated as lazy and stupid. Yet, it is scary to her as she sees her position on vaccination and the Coronavirus pandemic are most closely represented by Germany’s Neo-Nazi party the AfD.

Eventually, Rita voted for Germany’s socialist party, the Left Party. The Left’s outspoken Wagenknecht supports anti-vaxxers. Rita says, “I can sign up to what Sahra Wagenknecht says.” Yet, Wagenknecht is highly controversial inside the Linke Party.

Rita believes that the fear from Corona is changing German society. She says, “it’s like with children … you can scare children, then they are more likely to obey. But in the long term, you have a frightened child.” Rita refers to a paper issued by Germany’s Interior Ministry (March 2020). And indeed, Germany’s federal government suggested that Germans should be scared so that the Coronavirus pandemic would not be trivialized. In order to achieve this desired “shock effect”, fear should be used.

By early 2022, the majority of Germans in intensive care units were still the unvaccinated. They were an enormous burden for nurses and doctors. Important treatments and operations had to be postponed. Worse, those who do not get vaccinated are not only endangering their own lives, but also the lives of others. Rita doubts such facts and statistics. She emphasizes, “many vaccinated people are also in intensive care units.” She also claims, “there was no overloading of ICUs.”

Rita says,” if clinics were facing overload problems, our health system has to be better equipped … hospital beds should not be reduced. As she refers to herself, Rita says, I’m not 70 years old, I’m not a smoker, I have no previous illnesses. My risk of ending up in intensive care is not particularly high … I would like to decide for myself whether I will have a new [meaning: somewhat untested] medicine injected into me or not.”

If Corona catches up to her, she will take Ivermectin. Rita believes that this would prevent the worse. For Rita, Corona and the Coronavirus pandemic are scaremongering. She assumes that there has long been a useful drug preventing severe causes. An overloading of clinics could be prevented. Therefore, vaccination is not an act of solidarity for Rita.

In her eyes, you could just let Corona run its course. This is Rita’s suggestion on how to get out of the Coronavirus pandemic – a dangerous suggestion that would costs many more deaths than the 5.9 million we had as of February 2022.

Thomas Klikauer has over 750 publications. His latest book is on Media Capitalism. Meg Young is a Sydney Financial Accountant who likes good literature and proofreading, and in her spare time works on her MBA at WSU.