According to a survey on public attitudes, the French have the lowest levels of trust in vaccines, with 33% saying immunization is unsafe. The skepticism for vaccines is generally high in other developed countries too.
A large survey devised by Wellcome, a British medical charity, and conducted by Gallup World Poll, showed the French as the biggest skeptics in the world about the safety of vaccines.
The survey, which targeted more than 140,000 people across 144 countries, presented public attitudes toward health and science. Published on Wednesday, the survey took data from people aged 15 and older between April and December 2018.
Concern about vaccines
According to the survey, 33% of French people do not agree that immunization is safe. France is also the only country in the world where people believe that science and technology reduce the number of jobs.
Skepticism for vaccines is higher in industrialized nations. Many people in France and other developed countries express a lower confidence in immunization, and the survey showed a rise of the anti-vaccination culture in these countries.
"I think we expected that general trend, because where we have seen that skepticism and concern about vaccines, that tends to be in more developed countries," Imran Khan, Wellcome's head of public engagement and leader of the study, told AFP news agency.
"But I think the extent of the difference is surprising and some of those numbers were really startling," he added.
A UN report in April said that an estimated 169 million children missed out on the measles vaccines between 2010 and 2017.
The World Health Organization said last month that there had been a sharp rise in the number of measles cases across Europe in January and February of this this year, with more than 34,000 people catching the disease.
Vaccines matter to poor nations
In contrast to high-income nations, underdeveloped countries like Bangladesh and Rwanda have the highest levels of confidence in vaccines, with almost 100% survey participants in both countries agreeing that immunization is safe, important and effective for children.
Globally, 79% of people said vaccines are safe and 84% found them effective.
"I guess you could call it the 'complacency effect,'" said Wellcome's Khan. "If you look at those countries in our survey that have very high rates of confidence in vaccines, places like Bangladesh and Egypt, these are areas where you do have more infectious disease," he underlined.
"Perhaps what you see is the people in those countries can see what happens if you don't vaccinate," he said, adding that the health attitudes are different in more developed countries where, "if you don't get vaccinated, you're still less likely to catch that infection, and if you do get infected, you might not become as unwell or might not die, because we've got quite good healthcare systems in place."
The British medical charity hopes that its findings would provide governments a baseline to monitor health attitudes so that they can formulate better policies, particularly in regards to immunization.
shs/rt (AFP, Reuters)