People in UK trust vaccines more than their European neighbours

Grant Boone
June 21, 2019

Wellcome Global Monitor 2018 surveyed more than 140,000 people from more than 140 countries to shed light on attitudes to science and health - the survey is for researchers, funders, policy makers, science communicators and public engagement practitioners.

Only sixty-one percent of Icelanders agree that vaccines are safe, while 97 percent of them agree they are effective, and 99 percent agree they are important for children.

France was also the only country in the survey where most people believed science and technology would reduce jobs.

While the report by the Wellcome Trust suggests that more than three-quarters of the world's population agree that vaccines are safe and effective, that confidence dips sharply in high-income regions like Europe and North America.

Vaccines protect billions of people around the world.

In light of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring vaccine hesitancy one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019, Wellcome Global Monitor has revealed which countries have the highest rates of hesitancy.

In Eastern Europe, the figure is even lower, with just 40 per cent of people saying they have confidence in immunisation, despite vaccines being the most effective and widely used tool in the global fight against disease.

It notes that a decision not to vaccinate is "not just a personal choice of risk-taking.it also poses a risk to others".

Millions of people around the world are protected from the deadly effects of numerous diseases because of vaccinations.

Once largely eradicated in many places, measles has been making a comeback globally, including in the United States, in part due to backlash against immunization among some groups.

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"Perhaps what you see is the people in those countries can see what happens if you don't vaccinate", Khan said, adding that in developed countries people are both less likely to catch certain infectious diseases and more likely to be treated effectively by their healthcare systems if they do.

She said it "exposes the paradox of Europe" which, despite being a region with among the highest income and education levels, also has the world's highest levels of vaccine skepticism.

Bangladesh and Rwanda had almost universal agreement about the safety and effectiveness and have achieved very high immunisation rates despite many challenges in physically getting vaccines to people.

Globally, 49 percent of men worldwide say they know "some" or "a lot" about science, compared to 38 percent of women.

While most parents do choose to vaccinate their children, varying levels of confidence expose vulnerabilities in some countries to potential disease outbreaks, the study's authors said, recommending that scientists need to ensure people have access to robust information from those they trust.

In Ukraine, which reported the highest number of measles cases in Europe a year ago (53,218 in total) - only 50pc of people agreed vaccines were effective.

Trust in vaccines is highest in south Asia (95%) and eastern Africa (92%).

"Although much more research is needed to understand why this might be the case, the sluggish performance of the French economy over the last few years may be one factor that contributes to this sentiment", the report said.

Charlie Weller, Wellcome's head of vaccines, said: "It is reassuring that nearly all parents worldwide are vaccinating their children".

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