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Growing vaccines scepticism poses global health risk

France has highest level of scepticism in western Europe

vaccination

A growing number of people across rich and poor nations have lost faith in vaccines, and the trend is posing a huge risk to public health around the world.

A survey by health charity the Wellcome Trust of more than 140,000 people in over 140 countries, shows trust in immunisation has fallen steeply over the last decade.

Despite finding that 79% of people globally either somewhat or strongly agree that vaccines are safe, a growing minority in both high-income and low-income countries either refuse or delay vaccination, usually for their children.

The consequences are stark: measles cases have risen by 300% so far in 2019 as compared with the same period last year, data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) have shown.

In Western Europe, only 59% expressed complete confidence in vaccinations, while in Eastern Europe this figure was even lower at 40%. France appears to be the country with the most doubts, with one in three people disagreeing that vaccines are safe.

WHO now names ‘vaccine hesitancy’ as one of the top ten threats to global health in 2019.

Although 92% of parents worldwide reported that their children have received immunisation, unvaccinated children pose an infection threat to others, including infants who are too young to have jabs.

The rising levels of mistrust have a number of factors behind them, but ‘viral misinformation’ enabled by the internet and social media is seen as the chief culprit.

Governments are now putting pressure on social media platforms to act, and Facebook recently promised to crack down on ‘anti-vax’ content.

Charlie Weller, Head of Vaccines at Wellcome, says: "It is reassuring that almost all parents worldwide are vaccinating their children. However, there are pockets of lower confidence in vaccines across the world and we cannot afford to be complacent. To ensure society gets the full benefit of vaccines, we need to make sure that people have confidence in both the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and understand more about the complex reasons why this is not always the case."

Some European nations and US states are now considering making childhood vaccinations mandatory in order to return immunisation to safe levels and prevent outbreaks of measles and other conditions. Last month, the UK’s health secretary Matt Hancock said he would not rule out a move to compulsory vaccinations, and said anti-vax campaigners had ‘blood on their hands’ because of the preventable deaths caused by their misinformation.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

20th June 2019

From: Healthcare

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