The majority of people worldwide think vaccines are safe but the doubters make it impossible to win the war on preventable illnesses.
A global survey by the British health research charity Wellcome found that about 8 in 10 people, or 79%, agreed that vaccines are safe, and 9 in 10 worldwide say their children have been vaccinated.
But in order to protect whole populations, immunization coverage rates must generally be above 90% or 95%, according to the World Health Organization.
The survey asked more than 140,000 people in 140 countries about their attitudes toward science and medicine.
It found that in wealthier nations, where rates of infectious diseases are low, people tend to be more skeptical about the safety of vaccines. While in poorer countries people believe vaccines to be safe, effective and important for children.
France led the list of countries with the most skeptics. A third of French people do not agree that immunization is safe, by contrast 98% of those in Bangladesh believe that vaccines are both safe and effective.
“And in some of these regions, greater scientific knowledge or levels of education is actually associated with less confidence in vaccines,” the report says. “This suggests that putting out more scientific information, or trying to educate more people, will not be enough to change minds on this issue.”
In North America, just 72% of those surveyed said vaccines were safe. The numbers were even lower in Europe — 59% in Western Europe and 40% in Eastern Europe.
“Anxieties and public concerns about the safety of vaccines have always existed, but the rise of social media has allowed the spread of what UNICEF calls the ‘real infection of misinformation’ to much wider audiences,” the report says.
Vaccines have been credited for completely ridding the world of small pox and coming close to eliminating other diseases, such as polio.
But other illnesses are making a resurgence. In the U.S. alone, the number of measles cases this year has exceeded a thousand.
“I guess you could call it the ‘complacency effect,'” said Wellcome’s Imran Khan, who led the study. (VOA)