September 28, 2016
Written by Diane Cole
This article originally appeared on NPR.
What leads some people to say no — rather than yes — to vaccines? A survey of nearly 66,000 people about attitudes toward immunization has found some surprising results. In France, 41 percent of those surveyed said they did not have confidence in the safety of vaccines. By contrast, in Bangladesh, fewer than one percent of those surveyed expressed a lack of confidence.
Indeed, lapses and gaps in vaccination — including refusals by some parents to have their children vaccinated — have led to increasing numbers of outbreaks of polio, measles and other preventable diseases. Public health officials are worried about the possibility of the re-emergence of these illnesses — not just in the developing world but in highly developed economies as well.
To find out more, we spoke to the lead author, Heidi Jane Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
You surveyed people from 67 countries for your study. How widely do people’s attitudes about vaccines differ?
We asked people to [rank on a scale if they] agree or disagree with four statements: if they have confidence that vaccines are important for children; that they are safe; that they are effective; that they are compatible with their religious beliefs. Overall, people from around the world agreed that vaccines are important for children [the percentages who disagreed with this statement were under 10 percent in every region]. But when it came to safety, in France, 41 percent of the people disagreed. That is [more than] three times the global average of 12 percent. Seven of the least confident countries were in Europe and Eastern Europe.