A survey has found that people in Bulgaria are least likely, among all in the European Union, to agree that vaccines are safe.
Just 66.3 per cent of Bulgarians polled agreed that vaccines are safe, according to a report by the European Commission entitled State of Vaccine Confidence in the EU 2018.
Bulgaria also was among the three countries least likely to agree that vaccines are important for children to have. The figure was 78.4 per cent, with Poland at 75.9 per cent and Slovakia at 85.5 per cent.
Latvia had the least highest percentage of respondents agreeing that vaccines are effective (70.9 per cent), followed by Bulgaria (72.7 per cent) and Poland (74.9 per cent).
Of those polled in Bulgaria, just 50.2 per cent agreed that the seasonal flu vaccine is important.
The report, comparing results of polls in 2015 and 2018, showed that Bulgaria had the second-largest drop in the EU – after Poland – of people agreeing that vaccines are important for children to have, that vaccines are safe and vaccines are effective.
Confidence in the safety and importance of the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine exceeds confidence in the seasonal influenza vaccination in the majority of EU member states in the survey, the report said. However, in Belgium and Bulgaria, only 64.7 per cent, and 74.6 per cent of the public, respectively, agreed that the MMR vaccine is safe.
Vaccine refusal has been increasing in many EU member states, the report said. Between 2000 and 2017, routine immunisation coverage of the first dose of a measles-containing vaccine – typically MMR – has decreased in nine EU member states and since 2010, it has increased to 12.
In 2017, the number of confirmed measles cases was at their highest levels since 2010.
Across the 28 EU member states, public perceptions towards vaccines is largely positive, with the majority of the EU public agreeing (strongly or tend to agree) that vaccines are important (90 per cent), safe (82.8 per cent), effective (87.8 per cent), and compatible with religious beliefs (78.5 per cent).
The majority of the EU public also agree that MMR and seasonal influenza vaccines are important and safe.
The MMR vaccine is much more likely than the seasonal flu vaccine to be perceived as important (83.8 per cent versus 65.2 per cent) and safe (81.7 per cent versus 69.4 per cent), the report said.
“While this survey shows that a majority of citizens in the EU still believe in the importance, effectiveness and safety of vaccines, it has also revealed important declines in confidence in certain countries since 2016, highlighting the need for continuous monitoring, preparedness and response plans.
“In a number of EU countries, anti-vaccine groups, aided by social and mainstream media, are gaining traction and have started influencing politics and political elections. The examples of Sweden and Poland more generally illustrate how confidence can decline in any country, even those with optimal coverage rates and successful vaccination programmes,” the report said.
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