Heidi Larson | 26 Oct, 2018
Confidence Commentary: Vaccine Confidence Project
High confidence in vaccination programmes is crucial for maintaining high coverage rates, especially at levels that exceed those required for herd immunity. Across the European Union (EU), however, vaccine delays and refusals are contributing to declining immunisation rates in a number of countries and are leading to increases in disease outbreaks. Recent measles outbreaks – the highest in the EU for seven years – illustrate the immediate impact of declining coverage on disease outbreaks.
In this report we assess the overall state of confidence in vaccines among the public in all 28 EU member states and among general practitioners (GP) in ten EU member states. As vaccine confidence varies by vaccine, confidence is assessed for vaccines in general as well as for the measles and seasonal influenza vaccines, in order to reflect vaccines targeting different population groups. Confidence in (and demand for) vaccines is influenced by a number of factors, including the importance, safety, and effectiveness of vaccines. To examine the extent of public and GP confidence in vaccines, we have conducted the largest ever study on attitudes to vaccines and vaccination in the EU. We find a range of novel EU-wide and country-specific insights into vaccination behaviours that may immediately impact on public policy.
We report a number of key findings. We find that younger adults in the survey have less confidence in the safety and importance of both the MMR and seasonal influenza vaccines (and vaccines generally) than older age groups. The results of the survey suggest that a number of member states – including France, Greece, Italy, and Slovenia – have become more confident in the safety of vaccines since 2015; while Czech Republic, Finland, Poland, and Sweden have become less confident over the same period. While GPs generally hold higher levels of vaccine confidence than the public, 7 the survey found that 36% of GPs surveyed in Czech Republic and 25% in Slovakia do not agree that the MMR vaccine is safe and 29% and 19% (respectively) do not believe it is important. We find that the majority of GPs surveyed in these countries report that they are not likely to recommend the seasonal influenza vaccine, yet Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia all report to the WHO that they recommend the seasonal influenza vaccine to pregnant women (WHO, Immunization Schedule by Antigens, 2018).
More information on the European Commission vaccination policy can be found here.