'A global survey of attitudes towards science has revealed the scale of the crisis of confidence in vaccines in Europe, showing that only 59% of people in western Europe and 50% in the east think vaccines are safe, compared with 79% worldwide.
Around the globe, 84% of people acknowledge that vaccines are effective and 92% say their child has received a vaccine. But in spite of good healthcare and education systems, in parts of Europe there is low trust in vaccines. France has the highest levels of distrust, at 33%.
There have been major measles outbreaks in a number of countries, which have spread across the continent, linked to vaccine hesitancy.
Dr Heidi Larson, the director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said social media was amplifying anxieties. While confidence in vaccines in the UK was higher than in some other parts of Europe, “where the UK is now I would say is vulnerable,” she said.
The first Wellcome Global Monitor survey, which canvassed attitudes among 140,000 people worldwide, shows clear links between people’s trust in doctors, nurses and scientists and their confidence in vaccines. It also shows that mistrust in government institutions goes hand in hand with doubts about vaccines’ safety. A recent Guardian investigation looked into links between anti-establishment populist politics in Europe and anti-vax sentiment.
“This first-of-a-kind global survey clearly shows that people’s beliefs about science are deeply influenced by their culture, context and background,” said Imran Khan, the head of public engagement at Wellcome, which commissioned the survey from Gallup. “We need to care more about these connections if we want everyone to benefit from science.”'
Read more: Survey shows crisis of confidence in vaccines in parts of Europe