London-based biomedical research charity Wellcome has released the world’s largest study into how people across the globe think about science and major health challenges, and found that there is low trust in vaccination.
Wellcome Global Monitor 2018 surveyed more than 140,000 people from more than 140 countries to shed light on attitudes to science and health – the survey is for researchers, funders, policy makers, science communicators and public engagement practitioners.
Although the survey found that, worldwide, 79 per cent of people agree that vaccines are safe and 84 per cent are effective, that leaves 21 per cent and 16 per cent that are unsure of their safety and effectiveness, respectively. And when we look at Europe, only 59 per cent in western Europe and just 50 per cent in eastern Europe think vaccines are safe. The highest level of distrust was found in France, where only 33 per cent of people agree that vaccines are safe. These are shocking figures that present a very real problem for global health given the importance of vaccination to prevent the spread of contagious, dangerous, and sometimes deadly, diseases.
“There are increasingly populations and entire countries around the world where confidence in vaccines is dropping and uptake is dropping. That does pose a huge public health risk,” confirmed Imran Khan, Head of Public Engagement at Wellcome.
According to Dr Heidi Larson, Director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, social media is not helping the situation. “Social media is highly volatile. It has totally changed the landscape,” she said. She also said that much of the misinformation about vaccines being spread on social media is inaccessible to experts as it is happening in private groups. According to Dr Larson, the way forward is to build confidence in the younger generation, with information targeted at this demographic.
Dr Ann Lindstrand, an expert in immunisation at the World Health Organization, highlighted the importance of well trained health workers and the communication of scientific truth: "One of the most important interventions to counteract doubts and worries about vaccines is to have health workers really well trained and able and ready to recommend vaccinations based on scientific truth and to be able to respond correctly to questions and concerns that parents have and communities have,” she said.
With diseases such as measles having a resurgence, it feels like many countries are taking a step back but we must continue to move forward with reinstating trust in vaccination, which is SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN to save lives.