Europe Named as Part of World Most Concerned About Vaccine Safety

September 19, 2016

Europe has been named as the global region with the most concerns regarding the safety of medical vaccinations in a new report.

Research carried out by scientists at Imperial College London led to the discovery that Europeans are the people most likely to be wary of injections, either because they do not believe they will be effective in preventing disease, or due to concerns about sharps safety.

Europe's vaccination concerns

The study involved the questioning of almost 66,000 people from 67 countries to find out how they felt about the safety, ethics and efficacy of vaccines, with Europe coming out as the region with the greatest number of concerns. People in France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia, Greece, Ukraine, Armenia and Slovenia were among the most wary of injections.

In France, almost half (41 per cent) of survey respondents did not believe that vaccines were safe, which was significantly higher than the global average of 12 per cent. Meanwhile, participants from Russia, Italy and Azerbaijan reported high levels of scepticism regarding the importance of jabs.

On the whole, older people (aged 65 and above) typically had more positive views on the effectiveness of vaccines, but in many countries there was found to be a marked disparity between how people perceived the importance of vaccines and their safety, indicating that sharps safety improvements may need to be made.

Dr Heidi Larson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine led the study, commenting: "It's striking that Europe stands out as the region most sceptical about vaccine safety. And, in a world where the internet means beliefs and concerns about vaccines can be shared in an instant, we should not underestimate the influence this can have on other countries around the world."

Safety concerns

A lack of confidence in the safety of vaccines has led to widespread outbreaks of easily-preventable diseases - such as measles and polio - in the past, meaning it is vital that global perceptions change in the interests of public safety.

Personal beliefs can play a part in people's unwillingness to receive vaccines, as some cultures believe they are unethical. Additionally, many are concerned that vaccines may lead to the development of other conditions, such as autism, discouraging people from wanting to expose themselves to even small quantities of a virus.

Some may also be concerned that hygiene best practices may not be followed when injections are being administered, increasing the risk of a sharps injury or the spread of a blood-borne infection such as HIV. However, the risk of contracting a potentially life-threatening disease due to not receiving a preventative vaccine is in reality much higher.

Co-lead author Alex de Figueiredo of Imperial College London's Department of Mathematics stated that the study "highlights the need for continuous worldwide monitoring of public confidence in vaccines, so that policymakers can measure how effective their interventions are on people's attitudes".