Europe most vaccine-skeptic region in the world, survey says

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Europe is a deep pocket of doubt when it comes to vaccines.

Between 10 percent and 22 percent of people in countries across Europe dont trust that vaccines are safe, a new survey published Wednesday by the Wellcome Trust found.

Europe appears to be the most vaccine-skeptic region in the world, with France being the country with the lowest level of trust in vaccines globally. A third of people living in the country disagree that vaccines are safe.

Vaccine skepticism is also high in Eastern Europe, with only 50 percent of people agreeing that vaccines are safe.

Doubts about vaccines overall are highest in high-income regions — vaccines are a victim of their own success, campaigners say, since many people in developed countries have not had to deal with the infectious diseases they protect against.

Almost all people in Bangladesh and Rwanda agree that vaccines are safe, effective and are important for children to have.

“In developing countries, where deadly diseases like diphtheria, measles or whooping cough are more common, Ive seen mothers queue for hours to make sure their child is vaccinated,” Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a global health partnership, said in reaction to the survey.

The vaccine reticence in wealthier countries “is a luxury we can ill afford,” Berkley said.

Support within the developing world means eight in 10 people globally agree that vaccines are safe. More than 90 percent of parents worldwide said their children have received a vaccine, and only 6 percent of parents said they have not.

But only 73 percent of people in Northern Europe and 72 percent of people in Northern America agree that vaccines are safe. The same figure reaches 95 percent in South Asia.

Anti-vax impact

In high-income countries “people are more and more concerned about the environment, organics and trying to do the right things for their families, [so] its easier for rumors to spread because they dont see the benefits [of vaccines],” Berkley told POLITICO, highlighting the impact of misinformation about vaccines circulated on social media.

While trust in vaccines tends to be strongly linked to trust in scientists and medical professionals, in Europe that link seems broken — people distrust vaccine safety despite 86 percent of them trusting doctors and nurses, according to the survey.

In France, vaccine skepticism increased following a controversial flu vaccination campaign in 2009, during which the World Health Organization “was alleged to have been influenced by pharmaceutical companies,” the report says.

The country saw measles cases jump from 518 in 2017 to almost 3,000 in 2018, more than a 400 percent increase, according to the report.

Vaccination rates are now on the rise due to the governments decision to raise the number of mandatory vaccines from three to 11 last year.

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