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UK: Young people are the most sceptical of vaccinations and many don’t trust the flu jab

25 Oct, 2018
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Young people are more sceptical of vaccinations than older generations, with faith in the flu jab particularly low, a European Commission report has found. 

Misguided perceptions that diseases, such as flu, are not a serious threat, compounded by the rapid spread of health myths on social media, are thought to be driving complacency and scepticism. 

Those aged 18 to 24 were 28 per cent less likely than over-65s to agree that vaccinations are safe, and those aged between 25 and 34 were 39 per cent less likely. 

The report, published by the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), found that low trust in vaccinations is responsible for the rise in measles outbreaks across Europe. 

Within the EU, 12 countries have seen a decrease in measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations since 2010 – contributing to the largest measles outbreak in seven years in 2017, when cases on the continent quadrupled

But there is also concern over a significant lack of trust in flu vaccines. 

There are as many as 50 million cases of seasonal influenza in the EU each year – and 17,000 deaths. 

“People don’t think flu is a very serious illness, as they are accustomed to less severe strains,” said Professor Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the LSHTM. “They think they’re healthy, that they know better. There’s an element of hubris involved – combined with social media storms and the popularity of herbal and alternative approaches.”

“Soon we are going to get a very serious strain of flu that people have never been exposed to, they will need a vaccine,” Prof Larson added. “You can’t create a high level of understanding about vaccines during a crisis. We need to make sure people have that base understanding already.”

She added that with antibiotic resistance rising, a lack of trust in vaccines could exacerbate an outbreak. 

France has the lowest confidence in flu vaccines, with just half of respondents agreeing they were safe – despite 70 per cent agreeing that vaccines in general were safe. In contrast, confidence in flu vaccines is high in the UK – with over 85 per cent of people believing that flu vaccines are safe. 

The report also found that in countries where GPs had a high confidence in vaccines, a larger proportion of people expressed positive vaccination beliefs. 

Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for health and food safety, said the study confirmed the need for EU action. 

“As a doctor I can honestly say that vaccination is truly one of the greatest successes of public health of our time and the most cost effective tool in our hands,” he said. 

“Some of the key issues we need to address are fighting misinformation and the lack of awareness in the general population on the risks posed by diseases preventable through vaccination.”

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 25th, 2018 at 9:33 am and is filed under Latest News.

Literature Literature archive

Baalen, S. van. 2018 Research Ethics 14(4), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016117750312

Videos Video archive

Key figures share their perspectives on a controversy that led to the suspension of Ebola vaccine clinical trials in Ghana.

Drs. Heidi Larson and Pauline Paterson of the Vaccine Confidence Project join episode 50 of the Public Health United podcast with Nina Martin, November 2017.

Drs. Larson and Paterson join a discussion on vaccine confidence at Hong Kong University.  September, 2015.

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