1. ITV Report

Low levels of trust in vaccines in some parts of the world, global study reveals

Low trust in vaccines has been revealed in a new survey, with just half of people in Eastern Europe putting their faith in the life-saving procedure. Credit: PA

Low trust in vaccines in some parts of the world have been revealed in a new survey, with just half of people in Eastern Europe putting their faith in the life-saving procedure.

France has one of the lowest levels in trust in vaccines globally, as a third (33 per cent) of its population disagree that vaccines are safe and a tenth disagree it is important for children to have.

Western Europe has some of the lowest confidence in vaccines worldwide, as more than one in five (22 per cent) of people believe vaccines are safe.

Experts warn that a rise in scepticism is helping to fuel a rise in preventable diseases.

Measles is among the diseases which is preventable by vaccine, but the spread of misinformation means people are avoiding the life-saving jab.

According to Unicef, 16,000 children under five die every year due to preventable diseases like measles, polio, tetanus, tuberculosis, diphtheria and whooping cough due to the lack of vaccinations.

Graphic showing the level of trust in vaccinations across the world. Credit: PA Graphics
  • What does the data show us?

A new global survey of more than 140,000 people from more than 140 countries found 79 per cent of the world's population think vaccines are safe, with 92 per cent of parents saying their children are vaccinated.

According to the report by biomedical research charity Wellcome, there is less certainty around the safety of high-income regions, with 72 per cent in Northern American and 59 per cent in Western Europe agreeing they are safe.

The UK bucks the trend in comparison to the rest of Western Europe, as 75 per cent of people agreed vaccines are safe, with just nine per cent who disagree.

The Wellcome survey found 95% of UK parents said that their children had been vaccinated to prevent childhood diseases, with 3% reporting their children hadn’t.

The countries with the highest numbers of parents claiming to not vaccinate their children are China (9%), Austria (8%) and Japan (7%).

Countries with the highest trust in vaccines include Bangladesh and Rwanda.

The East African country has the highest trust in their healthcare system, at 97 per cent.

Countries with the highest trust in vaccines include Bangladesh and Rwanda. Credit: PA
  • Has there been a rise in preventable diseases?

In Europe, more than 34,000 people caught measles in the first two months of 2019.

Nearly three-quarters of recorded cases were in Ukraine, according to the World Health Organisation.

The 25,319 cases in Ukraine - in eastern Europe - matches up with the Wellcome study which shows eastern Europe has the lowest level of trust in vaccinations.

The disease has been virtually wiped out in the UK, but Public Health England has urged parents to vaccinate their children after outbreaks across the continent.

  • Why is there a distrust in vaccinations?

Roots of distrust in vaccinations can be traced back to Andrew Wakefield's theory in 1995 that the MMR vaccine was linked to autism and bowel disease - something which has been widely discredited.

In more recent times, there has been a widespread movement of so-called "anti-vaxxers" who oppose the treatment.

While their influence and numbers can be questioned, their spread of information on Twitter and social media platforms has sparked media coverage - bringing the issue into the public domain.

Experts have called for compulsory measles vaccinations for all children starting primary school to prevent a resurgence of the disease.

In England, the proportion of children having the MMR jab by their fifth birthday has fallen over the last four years to 87.2 per cent.

This is below the WHO's 95 per cent level, which they say is needed to protect a population from a disease. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he had not ruled out the possibility of compulsory vaccinations for diseases like measles.

  • What is the response to the survey?

Wellcome director Dr Jeremy Farrar said there is a link between trust in the healthcare profession and vaccinations.

Dr Farrar said: “No matter how great your idea, how exciting your new treatment, or how robust your science, it must be accepted by the people who stand to benefit from it.

“Vaccines, for example, are one of our most powerful public health tools, and we need people to have confidence in them if they are to be most effective.”

Imran Khan, Wellcome head of public engagement, said: “This first-of-a-kind global survey clearly shows that people’s beliefs about science are deeply influenced by their culture, context, and background.

“We need to care more about these connections if we want everyone to benefit from science.”

Charlie Weller, Wellcome’s head of vaccines, said: “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.”