Europe : Which regions hesitate to get COVID-19 vaccine?
Europe could follow the UK and approve a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks. With the enormous hurdle of finding a vaccine now likely to be overcome, the next challenge looms on the horizon. That’s persuading people to take it.
Experts believe in Europe, 70% of the population is required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are eradicating. Therefore, how much confidence are Europeans likely to have in a vaccine and will they be ready to take it when it becomes available?
Europeans among the Most Sceptical of Vaccines
Multiple surveys prove that Europeans are among the most sceptical about vaccines. A recent study of more than 13,400 people in 19 countries, people in Poland, for example, reported the most negative responses about whether people would receive a COVID-19 vaccine. France is among the most sceptical, with just 59% saying that if there were a COVID-19 vaccine which was found to be safe & effective, they would take it. Sweden, Germany and Spain in Europe have also shown more scepticism than other developed countries such as the United States and South Korea.
This has not been the first poll to show that European citizens have some of the biggest concerns for vaccines. The recent survey by World Economic Forum (WEF) and Ipsos also found that the French were the least likely to say they would receive a COVID-19 vaccine once it was approved. Spain and Italy were more sceptical than countries according to the WEF-Ipsos survey.
The survey results were hugely in line with a 2019 global survey conducted by the nonprofit Wellcome and Vaccine Confidence Project, that found that European countries were less likely to be confident in vaccines.
“The general trend that our survey showed around the world was that the richer and more economically developed a country, the fewer people tend to have confidence in vaccines in those countries,” said Imran Khan, Head of Engagement, Public to the Wellcome Trust. He even, added that an “important caveat” is that it is still not clear whether this confidence relates to “taking vaccines,” which means that many of these countries have more access to vaccines. And compulsory childhood vaccinations. In some countries, where confidence in vaccines is higher, vaccination rates are lower due to accessibility. Yet the World Health Organization ranked vaccine reluctance as one of the top threats to global health in 2019. It explains that some countries that were on track to eliminate measles have experienced a resurgence.
Is Vaccine Scepticism Related to Trust in Government?
The most recent Nature Global survey in Europe found that people who said they had a high level of trust in government information were more likely to agree to a vaccine. “It boils down to the fact that vaccines overall are highly regulated by the government, recommended by the government, sometimes required or mandated by the government,” said Dr Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
“If you have any issues with the government or are wary of how you have been treated as a marginalized group or just political leaders and accusations you feel betrayed by this you will think twice before you do. Accept a vaccine on which they decide, they regulate, and they may need, “ Larson, who is the co-author of The Nature Study.
The WEF-Ipsos survey proves that confidence is waning among populations in the COVID-19 vaccine, for example. “If in the first wave the Italians placed a lot of confidence in the experts and the government and the institutions, in the civil protection, in the second wave the level of confidence has greatly deteriorated”, explains the researcher from the University of Bergamo, Dr Andrea Rubin.
France’s Vaccine Paradox
France is a country where confidence in vaccines is shallow, which could be linked to public opinion of the government and pharmaceutical companies.
Lucie Guimier is a geopolitics specialist in public health at the Institute of Geopolitics at the University of Paris and has studied anti-vaccine sentiment in France. She said there were several reasons why France was consistently among the most reluctant to vaccination. “This concerns our social and political history on the one hand. It is true, in France we expect a lot from the Government, and at the same time, we are critical of the state, very much. “Guimier said. Beyond the fear of vaccines, resistance to vaccines in the country “is the defence of individual freedoms, and it is the refusal of the intrusion of the state in our private life”, declared Guimier, qualifying that of “French paradox” as the country is also one of the main consumers of medicines in the world.
Despite these concerns, this year, there have been re-supply issues for the influenza vaccine due to increased demand. France made 7 additional vaccines mandatory in 2018 for children, bringing the total mandatory vaccines for children to eleven.
Public Opinion has probably been Affected by Health Scandals.
There are many examples in Europe, including the blood scandal in the early 1990s, when more than 1,000 haemophiliacs in France had received blood infected with HIV. Second, in several countries, the hepatitis B vaccine was at one time thought to be linked to multiple sclerosis, a link that has since been refuted. More recently, officials across the country have come under fire for purchasing an oversupply of H1N1 vaccines.
“After major health scandals, there is a decline in confidence in vaccines,” explains Guimier, even without foundation. For COVID-19 vaccines, French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly stated that the country will not make vaccines mandatory.
Scepticism about Vaccines and the Legacy of Communism
In Poland, getting the vaccine because it’s the government demands it is “an uncomfortable echo of the past regime,” said Larson explained that the country also has a very organized anti-vaccination movement. However, the number of people refusing to have their children vaccinated increased between 2007 and 2016, according to the Polish National Institute of Public Health. The number of people refusing vaccine for children rose from 4,893 in 2007 to 23,147 in 2016. The percentage of children covered by the MMR vaccine has also decreased: in 2018, the vaccination rate was 92.9% for the base dose of the MMR vaccine and 92.4% for the booster dose, below 95 % necessary for the immunity of the population.
But a recent 2019 study on confidence in vaccines in the country found that confidence is increasing in the country. In this study, 74.6% of Poles said that compulsory vaccines had been safe. “Attitudes towards vaccination in Central Europe and Eastern Europe, may in part be shaped by the experience of the communist period and the organization of the health system before 1989”, write the authors.
Younger generations in Europe were often more hesitant, which could be linked to Internet access, the authors said. The survey found that people generally trusted their doctors, but were less confident in the government to recommend vaccines. There are currently eleven compulsory vaccines for children in the country.
Concerns about Vaccine Safety
Another major concern that people may have about vaccines relates to safety. A 2016 survey in Italy of parents of children aged 16 to 36 months found that safety concerns were the most important reason for refusing or stopping childhood immunizations. “The main factors associated with reluctance turned out to be: not having received a recommendation from a paediatrician to fully immunize their child, having received conflicting opinions about vaccinations, having met parents of children who had serious side effects, and mainly use non-traditional medical treatments,” said Aurea Oradini, from the School of Public Health at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan.
Italy has traditionally been more sceptical of vaccines, with vaccines declining between 2013 and 2016. Since then, the country has extended the number of mandatory vaccines from four to ten, which has increased coverage for children. Rubin, from the University of Bergamo, says confidence in vaccines has increased in Italy since then.
But these safety concerns can also vary from country to country and depend on the studies or reports produced for particular vaccines. Dr Xavier Bosch, assistant professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Open University of Catalonia, said vaccinations against HPV, which causes cervical cancer, were influenced by information according to which girls fell ill in Valencia, Spain, although the cause was psychological. Now, he says, “HPV vaccine coverage is estimated at around 70%”.
One of the main influences on anti-vaccination campaigns was a 1998 study by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield. The study suggested that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine may predispose children to developmental disorders such as autism.
Experts say the publication of this study subsequently influenced measles vaccination rates as it received a lot of media attention despite its speculative nature and subsequent retraction. After the study was found to be fraudulent, Wakefield was removed from the UK medical register. A common misconception is that measles itself is a harmless disease, which is likely a myth that comes from the success of vaccination campaigns that have reduced the number of deaths of millions per year in the 1980s to some. 122,000 in 2012, as told by The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). Yet last year, EU countries reported some 13,200 cases of measles, according to ECDC.
COVID-19 vaccine schedule and safety
Bosch points out that “with COVID we will face another situation in which we will introduce the vaccine to the elderly and frail”, which means, according to him, that “the side effects related to the vaccine will multiply”, bringing back the “security” concerns in the headlines. The WEF-Ipsos survey of new COVID-19 vaccines found that 34% of people worldwide were partly concerned about side effects, and 33% cited the speed of clinical trials as a concern.
This survey found that in France and Spain, “less than four in 10” would be vaccinated within three months of the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, for example. Experts say vaccines will only be approved if they are safe and the rapid turn around is due to a host of factors. “Partly because there is so much COVID around that in Europe, we were able to test them faster than we would with normal vaccinations,” says Khan.
“So normally when a disease is not as widespread, it takes a lot longer to do the testing because it takes longer for enough people to get infected for you to test if it was. sure or not. ” This, in addition to high levels of funding and administrative shortcuts, also contributed to the timeliness of vaccines.
But “another problem with vaccines around the world is that we are very dependent on big business for global health. And for some people who have problems with big business and especially the private sector, this is another weak point in our chain of trust,” explained Dr Larson. Although cooperation between government and business from a public health point of view, the coalition is useful.
What are the most critical factors in building public confidence in vaccines?
Many experts say it’s important to build trust by listening to people’s concerns and being transparent about public health information.
Social media can often play an unfavourable role, experts say, with misinformation and negative views about vaccines more readily available than positive news. “Platforms like Facebook are getting better at blocking false information about vaccines. But it concerns Europe that it is so easy for misinformation about vaccines to spread,” said Khan of the Wellcome Trust.
Most importantly, “active doctor’s recommendation is the strongest determinant of a child getting vaccinated,” Bosch told the Open University of Catalonia.
Larson says experts need to understand why people in Europe are affected and where they are most affected. We need to “engage with people so that they know that you care about you and are interested in their opinions,” she said.