A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. Picture taken March 20, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/LINDSEY WASSON)
More than three-quarters of Israelis (76%) believe that vaccines are safe, significantly more than in most European countries, a worldwide study examining public attitudes to science and health has revealed.
The study by London-based research charity The Wellcome Trust, which interviewed more than 140,000 people in over 140 countries, revealed that eight in ten people (79%) globally "somewhat" or "strongly agree" that vaccines are safe, while 7% "somewhat" or "strongly disagree".
Among the 1,010 Israelis interviewed face-to-face for the study, 76% said they think vaccines are safe and 84% said that vaccines are effective. On the other hand, 5% of Israelis said they thought vaccines were unsafe. A further 13% said they neither agreed nor disagreed that vaccines are safe, and 5% said they did not know.
Opinions regarding safety of vaccines differed, however, among age groups. While approximately three-quarters of Israeli 15-29 year olds and 30-49 year olds agreed that vaccines are safe, only 41% of Israelis above 50 years old shared the same belief.
Trust in the safety of vaccines in high-income regions was significantly lower than low-income regions, the study revealed. While 72% of people in Northern America and 73% in Northern Europe agree that vaccines are safe, only 59% of people in Western Europe and 50% in Eastern Europe believe the same.
In contrast, some 95% of people in South Asia and 92% in Eastern Africa agreed that vaccines are safe. In France, one-third of respondents disagreed that vaccines are safe - more than any other country worldwide.
About 5% of Israelis claimed that their children had not received vaccines, with 6% of parents worldwide - 188 million parents - saying that their children are unvaccinated. Countries with the highest numbers of parents claiming not to vaccinate their children are China (9%), Austria (8%) and Japan (7%).
"It is reassuring that almost all parents worldwide are vaccinating their children. However, there are pockets of lower confidence in vaccines across the world and we cannot afford to be complacent," said Charlie Weller, head of vaccines at Wellcome.
"To ensure society gets the full benefit of vaccines, we need to make sure that people have confidence in both the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and understand more about the complex reasons why this is not always the case."
In recent months, amid an outbreak of measles both globally and nationally, Israel's Ministry of Health has urged parents to vaccinate their children against the infectious disease. Unvaccinated individuals exposed to a measles patient, the ministry says, has a higher than 90% chance of infection.
Among the 97% of Israeli respondents who said they have a religion, 72% said that science and their religion disagree. A total of 39% stated that they believe religion over science in the case of disagreement.
Globally, 64% of people who have a religious affiliation, and say religion is an important part of their daily life, believe religion over science when there is a disagreement.
Overall, 72% of people globally trust scientists, but over half of the world's population (57%) said they know little, if anything, about science. In Israel, 80% said they trusted scientists, but 55% said they know little or nothing about science.
"This first-of-a-kind global survey clearly shows that people’s beliefs about science are deeply influenced by their culture, context, and background," said Imran Khan, head of public engagement at Wellcome. "We need to care more about these connections if we want everyone to benefit from science."
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