According to a new global study from Wellcome Trusts, people of richer nations, including the United States, are more likely to have doubts about vaccines.
The anti-vaccine movement is especially bad in France, where one-third of residents disagreed that vaccines were safe.
The global study surveyed 140,000 people in over 140 countries across the world. The study published Wednesday showed that 79% of people agree that vaccines are safe. However, trust in vaccines decreased as average income increased in countries.
Investigators found that “Nearly 72% of people in North America and 73% in Northern Europe agree that vaccines are safe. The numbers are even worse in Western Europe (59%) and Eastern Europe (40%).”
These 11 countries reported the highest percentages of people who disagreed that vaccines are safe:
- France 33%
- Gabon 26%
- Togo 25%
- Russia 24%
- Switzerland 22%
- Armenia 21%
- Iceland 21%
- Belgium 21%
- Austria 21%
- Haiti 20%
- Burkina Faso 20%
However, the report did not fully explore what exactly led to low levels of trust. The study did find that people who get more information on medical science were less likely to think that vaccines were safe. Of course, what kind of information they get is unclear. The investigators explained that higher-income nations might also be experiencing some sort of complacency.
They also found that people residing in regions with lower-level income are more likely to trust vaccines.
The report stated, “In low-income regions, the proportion of people who agree ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ that vaccines are safe tends to be much higher at 80% or above, with highs of 95% of people in South Asia and 92% in Eastern Africa.”
The director of Wellcome, Dr. Jeremy 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.”
For instance, in the United States, many anti-vaxxers think that vaccines can lead to autism. And once that idea grabs hold, it is hard to walk back. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe. This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis.”