The Anti-Vaccine Movement Exists in Europe Too

Vaccine science denial is a well known public health challenge in the United States, but new research shows that some European nations, such as France, are also struggling with widespread vaccine skepticism. 

The study, conducted by the group Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, included a survey of 66,000 people from 67 countries.

Researchers asked a range of questions to discern participants’ feelings about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. The scientists also asked respondents if vaccine programs were compatible with their religious beliefs. Overall, the survey attempted to gain an understanding of what’s been termed the “vaccine confidence crisis,” in which people are refusing vaccines for themselves and their children. 

Researchers found that, although responses to vaccines were generally positive, there were large discrepancies in opinion when the data was broken down by region.

Southeast Asia and Africa had the greatest confidence in vaccines. For instance, fewer than one percent of the population in Bangladesh and the Philippines expressed concerns about vaccine safety. 

However, while the majority of Europeans still back vaccines, individual nations did poorly.

Around 41 percent of French people surveyed said they did not agree that vaccines are safe — the highest number recorded in the study. About 28 percent of Russians also disputed vaccine safety records, while a quarter of Greece’s citizens said they were unsure about vaccines.

In fact, researchers report that the European region had the majority — seven out of 10 — of countries that were most likely to dispute vaccine safety.

Although many individuals raised concerns about safety, countries like France actually tended to support the idea that vaccines were still important. This finding suggests that the issue isn’t with the efficacy of vaccines, as has been an issue in the U.S.

Lead author Dr. Heidi Larson explained that this research may help to tackle anti-vaccine attitudes in countries with significant influence over global health policy:

Our findings give an insight into public opinion about vaccines on an unprecedented scale. It is vital to global public health that we regularly monitor attitudes towards vaccines so that we can quickly identify countries or groups with declining confidence. … It’s striking that Europe stands out as the  most skeptical 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.

As Larson mentioned, the internet can now magnify stories about the rare instances in which an individual receives a vaccine and then experiences a health problem. Even though these incidents may be unconnected, irresponsible reporting and social media sharing could erode confidence in vaccines.

Research examining why public confidence in vaccines varies regionally is of critical importance. Vaccines are rigorously tested and routinely evaluated for safety and effectiveness. The risk of serious medical complications resulting from vaccines is incredibly low, and even if a vaccine cannot entirely prevent someone from contracting a disease, it can often spare them the most serious health effects.

The main takeaway from this study, however, is that vaccine safety denialism isn’t just a problem in the United States or only one area of the world. Rather, it is a challenge that we must address globally if we are to ensure that future generations are protected from disease.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

78 comments

Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman2 years ago

Big Pharma makes its big profit in treatment, such as EpiPen for chronic diseases.

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Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman2 years ago

Paul Lundbolm wrote, "Vaccines are sooooo safe no one can sue the makers for harm. Hmmm...try that in another industry." My recollection is that the nuclear power industry in the United Sates also has immunity of sorts, from lawsuits greater than $150,000,000. Is Paul worried about nuclear power plants?

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Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

Public health versus private profit.

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Heidi W.
Heidi W2 years ago

cont
Andrea G: at least this time you left out the microchip. Tired of watching the X-files maybe? Nathan D: the link to autism is non existing and was invented by Andrew Wakefield who got paid over 400000£ for this fraud. So put a sock in it!

And for the love of ... (whoever you do or don't believe in), go see a reliable health professional instead of looking at quacks who are overpopulating C2 lately.

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Heidi W.
Heidi W2 years ago

Veronica A wrote "Also I don't understand why those that are so pro vaccine are so scared of those that are not, after all isn't having the vaccine suppose to prevent you from getting the disease you are protected against??? Only those not vaccinated can get the disease, isn't that right??? "

NO NO NO that is not right and it only shows how ignorant you are. Those pro vaccination aren't scared of getting a disease they are protected against, they worry about HERD IMMUNITY, they worry about the ones who can't be vaccinated and who are very much likely to get e.g. measles when there's no here immunity, People such as the ones having cancer treatment, organ transplants and the biggest group of all: INFANTS! If you don't want to vaccinate, KEEP YOUR LITTLE MONGRELS AWAY FROM OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN!

Wendi M wrote: "It seems like 1 out of 10 children seem to be on the range of the Autistic Spectrum more boys than girls and why is that? Beyond scary"

Ever heard of better diagnostics? Ever heard of DSM? Ever heard of genetics? If you can visit this site you surely are able to visit dr Google and do some research instead of spouting nonsens.

Walter Kryshak: Ever heard of evolution? Guess not or you would understand bugs aren't the same as they were in the 70's

Andrea G: at least this time you left out the microchip. Tired of watching the X-files maybe?

Nathan D: the link to autism is non existing and was invented by Andrew Wakefield who got paid over 400000Â&p

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Heidi Gail N.
Heidi Gail N2 years ago

I'm all for vaccination programs, and lowering the costs of the vaccines.

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Will Rogers
Will Rogers2 years ago

Yes there are stupid people in Europe too.

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Elaine W.
Past Member 2 years ago

If you can blame vaccines then the polluters and pesticide sales and food additives can deflect responsibility to clean up.

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Wendi M.
Wendi M2 years ago

Agree with Rita Odessa 100%
Born in the '60s and there were very few children with any form of Autism
It seems like 1 out of 10 children seem to be on the range of the Autistic Spectrum more boys than girls and why is that? Beyond scary

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