EU rejects mandatory vaccinations despite widespread false beliefs

EU rejects mandatory vaccinations despite widespread false beliefs

One in two EU citizens wrongly assume that vaccines often have serious side effects. Now, the European Commission wants to tackle these false beliefs, but does not believe that compulsory vaccinations are the way forward.

Widespread false beliefs about vaccines in Europe

This emerges as a Eurobarometer survey of 27.524 people in Europe uncovered widespread, mistaken assumptions about vaccinations. While 85 percent of respondents agreed that vaccines are either “definitely” or “probably” effective in preventing diseases such as flu, measles, polio and hepatitis, a significant proportion also expressed false beliefs about vaccines.

Although 80 percent agreed with the statement, “Vaccines are rigorously tested before being authorised for use”, 31 percent also expressed that they believe vaccines overload and weaken the immune system. A further 38 percent believe that vaccines can cause the disease against which they protect and nearly half (48 percent) said that vaccines can often produce serious side effects.

Dutch knowledgeable about vaccines; Germans sceptical

The survey also demonstrated considerable regional variation: the majority of Dutch respondents were able to answer the questions correctly, meaning that, as a country, the Netherlands came joint top (with Sweden) for overall knowledge about vaccines.

However, a significant proportion of German respondents held incorrect beliefs. Only 54 percent were totally convinced about vaccines’ overall effectiveness and a surprising 42 percent believe that vaccines cause the diseases against which they protect. This put Germany’s overall knowledge score just below the EU average.

EU favours vaccine education over “coercion”

The results of the survey are concerning considering the overall decline in vaccination rates and increase in cases of infectious disease. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of measles cases reported to doctors in Europe tripled. Last year alone, this preventable disease caused 35 deaths in the EU.

“This means our work to increase vaccine coverage and to counter vaccination misinformation is far from over,” said European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen. “Our citizens do not know enough.” However, Katainen rejected the proposals for compulsory vaccinations that are being debated in various EU countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, stating that “coercion is not the only solution.”

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Abi Carter


Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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