'France is more sceptical about vaccine safety than any other nation, research suggests. A third of French people disagree that vaccines are safe, according to the Wellcome Global Monitor survey.
This scepticism over vaccinations reflects the public’s comparatively high distrust of politicians, say experts on France’s anti-vaccine movement. The Wellcome study found France had among the highest levels of distrust of government.
Laurent-Henri Vignaud, a historian at the University of Burgundy and co-author of Antivax, a recent history of anti-vaccine sentiment in France, said there was “no structural reason” that vaccine hesitancy was higher than in neighbouring countries, but mistrust of politicians and criticism of the state increased the sentiment.
“The anti-vaccine movement in France is a more recent development than the anti-vaccine movement in England. The small movement in France, which makes a big noise online, isn’t stronger than elsewhere. But France does have one specificity, which is its almost pathological relationship with the state. French people expect so much of our state and so they are also very critical of it,” Vignaud said.
Until the start of the 2000s around 90% of French people were pro-vaccine, but then scandals involving drug companies shook public confidence. A turning point came in 2009 when the French government ordered huge quantities of vaccine against the swine flu epidemic. Less than 10% of people took up the offer to get the vaccine amid fears of side-effects. The government was seen as having massively over-ordered with public funds, raising questions about financial interests.'
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