A small but menacing rally this month in Poland followed a decision a few days earlier by the elected council in Walbrzych, a former mining town in the southwestern part of the country, to declare that vaccination against the coronavirus was mandatory for all adult residents.
That decision, the mayor, Dr. Roman Szelemej, said in an interview, reflected “the simple medical fact that vaccination is the only thing that can prevent this disease.” But instead of calming nerves, he lamented, “it made this small point on the map of Poland a place for all the skeptics of science and reality to focus on.”
Wariness of coronavirus vaccines runs deep in Poland, particularly among younger people, with a survey by the University of Warsaw indicating that around 40 percent of the population is averse to getting inoculated. That is a lower level of skepticism than in France but still enough to make vaccines a rallying cause for a diverse and, Dr. Szelemej fears, growing minority who “live in a different reality” based on distrust of all scientific, moral and political authority.
“There are no rules, no laws, no facts, no scientific achievements, no proven data. Everything is questioned, everything is fragile,” he said. “This is dangerous, very dangerous.”
The mandatory vaccine order, endorsed by 20 out of 25 town councilors, carried no real legal force. And it was declared invalid last week by the regional government, which is controlled by members of Poland’s deeply conservative governing party, Law and Justice, the political foes of Dr. Szelemej, who is a centrist liberal.