Russia and Eastern Europe are the regions least likely to agree that vaccines are either 'safe' or 'effective'. In these locations, people with higher levels of science education consistently have lower levels of confidence in vaccines.
For this research, responses were collected from more than 140,000 people in over 140 countries.
For those who question the necessity of vaccinations, Russia is a good place to find likeminded people.
According to a worldwide study performed by the Wellcome Global Monitor, less than 50% of the people in Russia believe that vaccines are safe. And Russia is not alone — Worldwide, Eastern Europeans are the least likely to agree that vaccines are effective.
The Russian Orthodox Church has gone on record, officially opposing compulsory vaccinations of children. And according to this international study, a huge cross-section of Russian citizens share the Church's hesitancy in regard to vaccines.
The Wellcome Global Monitor is part of the Gallup World Poll. They collected responses from more than 140,000 people in over 140 countries, and they asked people specifically about vaccines.
They highlighted pockets of doubt regarding the safety of vaccines in certain regions and demographic groups. For example, people in several higher-income regions are among the least certain about vaccine safety. Only 72% of people in Northern America and 73% in Northern Europe 'agree' that vaccines are safe, and the figure is as low as 59% in Western Europe, and 50% in Eastern Europe.
By contrast, an overwhelming majority of people in lower-income areas 'agree' ('somewhat' or 'strongly') that vaccines are safe. The highest such proportions are in South Asia, where 95% of people said they 'agree' that vaccines are safe, and in Eastern Africa, where the figure stands at 92%.
Eastern Europe, in particular, revealed the world's lowest confidence in vaccinations. When asked whether vaccines are safe, the total number of people responding either 'strongly agree' or 'somewhat agree' barely reached 50%. And specifically in Russia and Ukraine, the numbers were even lower.
Eastern European countries that are outside the EU generally had lower percentages of people who trust vaccines, compared to countries that are in the EU.
There is substantial variation by country in Eastern Europe, with country-level results significantly below the population-weighted regional figure of 50% in the following countries: Ukraine (29%), Belarus (41%), and Bulgaria (44%). The results for the following countries are above the regional aggregate: Czech Republic (69%), Hungary (79%) Poland (81%), Romania (69%) and Slovakia (77%). The weighted regional aggregate is affected by Russia's large population, where the figure stands at 48%.
Specifically in Russia and Eastern Europe, people with higher levels of science education consistently had lower levels of confidence in vaccines. Meanwhile, in Northern Europe and Northern America, the reverse was true. This disparity suggests that putting out more scientific information, or trying to educate more people, will not necessarily change minds on this issue.
Vaccine usage is declining throughout most of Eastern Europe. And this isn't surprising, considering that this region is by far the least likely to agree that vaccines are either 'safe' or 'effective'.
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