People in UK trust vaccines more than their European neighbours

By Henry Vaughan, Press Association

People in the UK trust vaccines more than their European neighbours, with the French the most sceptical in the world, according to new research.

A global survey of more than 140,000 people in more than 140 countries found 79% of the world’s population think vaccines are safe with 92% of parents saying their children have been vaccinated.

The report, conducted by biomedical research charity Wellcome, found there is less certainty about the safety of vaccines in high-income regions, with 72% of people in Northern America and 59% in Western Europe agreeing they are safe.

(PA Graphics)

In the UK, 75% of people agreed vaccines are safe, with 9% disagreeing, while in France a third of people disagreed that vaccines are safe – the highest percentage for any country in the world.

Charlie Weller, Wellcome’s head of vaccines, said: “It is reassuring that almost all parents worldwide are vaccinating their children.

“However, there are pockets of lower confidence in vaccines across the world and we cannot afford to be complacent.

“To ensure society gets the full benefit of vaccines, we need to make sure that people have confidence in both the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and understand more about the complex reasons why this is not always the case.”

The study comes amid a growing debate over whether mandatory vaccination should be introduced in the UK for children starting school.

Anti-vaccination groups have been blamed for some parents not vaccinating their children with the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) following Andrew Wakefield’s discredited research linking autism to the jab.

However, the Wellcome survey found 95% of UK parents said that their children had been vaccinated to prevent childhood diseases, with 3% reporting their children hadn’t.

This compares to 92% of parents worldwide who say their children have been vaccinated, and 6% who say their children are unvaccinated, representing a potential 188 million parents globally, according to the report.

The countries with the highest numbers of parents claiming to not vaccinate their children are China (9%), Austria (8%) and Japan (7%).

The report, called Wellcome Global Monitor, said trust in vaccines tends to be strongly linked to trust in scientists and medical professionals such as doctors and nurses.

Wellcome director Dr Jeremy Farrar said: “Wellcome Global Monitor presents an unprecedented view of the relationship between science and society worldwide.

“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.”

Imran Khan, Wellcome head of public engagement, said: “This first-of-a-kind global survey clearly shows that people’s beliefs about science are deeply influenced by their culture, context, and background.

“We need to care more about these connections if we want everyone to benefit from science.”