“Europeans are turning away from vaccines, amid rising distrust of immunization for infectious diseases,” begins an article earlier this year in EurActiv, the journal of record for the European Community, published in over a dozen languages and widely read by journalists as a go-to-source for emerging policy debates in Europe.
As evidence for its claim, the article cites the French National Institute for Prevention and Health Education, which found that “distrust of vaccination has risen from 10% in 2005 to 40% in 2010,” as well as pointing to a major conference held in Italy last year, The State of Health of Vaccination in the EU. The conference, designed to counter the growing opposition among Europeans to vaccinations, featured numerous speakers concerned about the low levels of vaccination throughout the continent. As a Swedish presenter at the conference remarked about the failure of the public to embrace the MMR vaccine to protect against measles, “Among children aged 1-4 years, the age group targeted by routine childhood vaccination programs, 77% of cases were unvaccinated.”
In contrast to the English-speaking world, where increasing numbers of vaccines are being made mandatory and public debate is effectively banned, the trend is the opposite in Continental Europe. Last September, the French High Council for Public Health itself called for a public debate on whether vaccination against certain diseases should remain compulsory.
“In Europe, France is the only country to maintain the policy of compulsory vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis,” EurActiv reports.
“Portugal has kept compulsory vaccination for diphtheria and polio, and Belgium just for polio. Elsewhere in Europe, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and others have all abolished compulsory vaccination.”
The article, entitled “Distrust of vaccinations on the rise across EU,” also represents the perspective of public health authorities, quoting them as extensively as their critics, including laments such as “Some whistle-blowers are very dangerous […] because they cause people to lose their trust [in vaccines].”
Kudos to EurActiv, for balanced coverage of the vaccine issue. From an English-language journalist’s perspective, the kudos are especially well deserved because EurActiv caters to the European political establishment, and because it numbers pharmaceutical giants such as Sanofi among its prominent sponsors. This fair and balanced article is available here.