Researchers say public mistrust of vaccines is causing diseases like measles and yellow fever to spread.
The scientists said the lower levels of trust can lead to people refusing vaccines. This, in turn, can cause diseases to spread quickly, they warned. But the researchers said they also found a high level of support worldwide for vaccinating children against disease.
Scientists from Britain and Singapore reported the findings. They work for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Imperial College London and the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health in Singapore.
The researchers questioned 66,000 people in 67 countries to discover their ideas on whether vaccines are important, safe and effective. They also wanted to know whether the development and use of vaccines was in agreement with their religious beliefs.
The survey showed people in Southeast Asia had the highest level of trust in vaccines. Africa showed the second highest level of confidence.
Europeans showed the lowest level of confidence in vaccines. In France, 41 percent of the population questioned the safety of vaccines.
Heidi Larson is with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She says recent media reports of problems involving vaccines have hurt public confidence in France.
Larson noted that many Europeans worried about reports of possible links between hepatitis B vaccines and the disease multiple sclerosis. But she said scientists found no linkage between the two.
Mistrust in France was also driven by public reaction to the H1N1 influenza outbreak fears in 2009. The French government spent $1.4 billion on 94 million doses of the vaccine. The majority were sold or destroyed.
The findings come as a major yellow fever vaccination program has been launched in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.
The disease has already killed hundreds of people in the area. The World Health Organization aims to vaccinate over 15 million people in both countries.
“If everyone agrees to be vaccinated, we can eliminate yellow fever from our country,” said Mosala Mireille, one of the doctors directing the program.
I’m Anne Ball.
Henry Ridgwell reported on this story for VOANews.com. Jim Dresbach adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.