How a Soviet Past Influences the Present: Vaccine Hesitancy in the Russian-speaking Population Today




vaccine hesitancy, public health, health education, russian speaking community, health care access, health care policy


The Russian-speaking population in the United States has shown a notoriously high prevalence of vaccine hesitancy. The same trends are present in the former Soviet republics. This was illuminated during the COVID-19 pandemic as World Health Organization cited this demographic as among the lowest vaccinated. This study aims at discovering key factors behind vaccine hesitancy in the Russian-speaking population in former Soviet republics and the USA.

From August to November of 2021, twenty five 30-minute interviews with subjects ranging between ages 16-81 were conducted in Russian. Through these 25 interviews, 15 with immigrants in the Russian-speaking community in Washington State and 10 with residents of Russia and Ukraine, coupled with reviews of published literature and online sources, a strong relationship between vaccine hesitancy and a multitude of factors was established.

The key factors behind vaccine hesitancy documented in this study were tied to subjects’ experiences and culture in the former Soviet Union. Among these was a strong distrust of government, doubts towards the healthcare system, mistrust of medical professionals, a Soviet medical culture that questions prophylactic treatment options, the eruption of a consumer-dominated society in the post-soviet era, and misinformation in the media. For immigrants in the U.S., a general confusion with the American healthcare system was also a contributing factor.

These findings reveal key drivers of vaccine hesitancy in one of the lowest vaccinated demographics overall, highlighting the persisting importance of Soviet background. Shining light on these factors is essential for combating vaccine hesitancy in this population.


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Author Biographies

Jonathan Tyshler, Bellevue High School

Jonathan Tyshler is a Bellevue High school student. He has presented a paper on vaccine hesitancy in the Russian speaking population at the Russian, East European and Central Asian studies 2022 conference. He is also a winner of 2022 Why Learn Languages competition.

Nathan Manning, Bellevue High School


Nate Manning teaches AP Biology and other science courses at Bellevue High School.

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How to Cite

Tyshler, J., & Manning, N. (2022). How a Soviet Past Influences the Present: Vaccine Hesitancy in the Russian-speaking Population Today. Journal of Student Research, 11(2).



HS Research Articles