Something rotten in the state of Bulgaria

Opposition to the jab is mainstream in Bulgaria, where less than a third of the population has been vaccinated. More worryingly, the anti-vaxx movement is fuelling a surge in far-right politics. Borzou Daragahi meets the doctor at the centre of the row

Tuesday 07 December 2021 21:30 GMT
Anti-government protest in Sofia: 80 per cent of Bulgarian physicians oppose vaccinations
Anti-government protest in Sofia: 80 per cent of Bulgarian physicians oppose vaccinations (AFP via Getty)

Like many vaccine sceptics around the world, Atanas Mangarov eschews the jab and surgical masks. He cites dubious studies about the efficacy of the various Covid-19 inoculations. He makes the highly scientifically questionable claim that his recovery from Covid provides him with better immunity than the vaccine. He posts articles about vaccine failures and opposition to inoculation requirements to the internet. And he urges anyone he can that getting jabbed is unnecessary, potentially exposing oneself to risky “untested technology”, even as they have been subject to intensive testing and approved by nearly every official health and disease control agency on the planet.

But unlike a whacky uncle or annoying high school pal, Mangarov can’t be ignored, blocked or muted. He is a leading Bulgarian physician and epidemiologist specialising in infectious diseases, serving on several major health European advisory boards. He is also head of a major hospital’s Covid-19 ward.

Almost every day, the lithe and cheerily unvaccinated 65-year-old doctor can be seen roaming the corridors of Professor Ivan Kirov Hospital, in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, while attending to patients in an intensive care unit almost full of patients suffering from Covid. Even when visiting the sick, he wears no surgical mask, which he also calls unnecessary. Unwilling to get inoculated, he is forced instead to take a Covid test every two days.

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