Jun 20, 2019

Vaccine safety concern has regional differences: Wellcome survey

Photo of child in Bangladesh wincing as she receives her MMR shot

A Rohingya refugee gets an MMR vaccine at camp in Bangladesh in November 2017. Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

While 79% of people worldwide "somewhat" or "strongly agree" that vaccines are safe, certain parts of the world have a concerning level of disbelief, particularly in parts of Europe, according to a large Gallup survey for charitable foundation Wellcome Trust released on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The global health community is trying understand and combat pockets of anti-vaccination or vaccine hesitancy, which have recently led to some devastating outbreaks, such as from the highly contagious but preventable measles, even though vaccine injuries are rare.

Details: Wellcome says this "first-of-[its]-kind global survey" asked more than 140,000 people aged 15 and older in 144 countries various questions last year to determine how they think and feel about health and science, including vaccination.

By the numbers: Per Wellcome Global Monitor 2018, when asked their position on whether "Vaccines are safe," respondents indicated...

  • Globally: 79% agree that vaccines are safe, 7% disagree, 11% neither agree nor disagree, and 3% don't know.
  • North America: 72% agree, 11% disagree, 16% neither agree nor disagree, 1% don't know.
  • Eastern Europe: 50% agree, 17% disagree, 26% neither agree nor disagree, 7% don't know.
  • France: Showed the highest percentage of people who disagree vaccines that are safe, at 33%.
  • Bangladesh and Rwanda: Showed the highest percentage of people who agree vaccines are safe, at 97% and 94% respectively.
  • Of note: "Agree" and "disagree" combine both ranges of "somewhat" and "strong."

Between the lines: Wellcome's report says France's vaccine skepticism was found to be consistent throughout the various demographics as "it does not vary significantly by education, age, gender, urban or rural status, or whether people are parents."

  • The report notes that researchers have found there was a a substantial increase in vaccine skepticism in France after the pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccination campaign in 2009, which had stirred up some controversy that was refuted by the World Health Organization.
  • "The rising vaccine hesitancy in France over the past several years — which even now includes some members of the medical community — has helped drive vaccine coverage among some children and young adults below immunity thresholds and led to rising numbers of measles and meningococcal disease cases," the report states.

Methodology: This study was included in the Gallup World Poll and was translated into the major languages of each country. 3,600 interviewers in the 144 countries used face-to-face and phone interviews to collect the data from April to December 2018. Here's their methodology and their questionnaire.

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