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  • Why Are People Avoiding the Flu Vaccine?

Why Are People Avoiding the Flu Vaccine?

Nov 13 2018 Read 1349 Times

While some vaccines such as MMR and HPV are widely accepted, others are surrounded by speculation. A recent European Commission report found that young people are especially cynical of the flu jab, with 28% of people aged 18 to 24 believing that vaccinations are unsafe and unnecessary. People aged 25 to 34 were even more doubtful, with the study finding this demographic has 39% less faith in vaccinations.

Experts put the trend down to false perceptions that diseases like the flu aren't a serious health threat. Social media has also helped to fuel a myriad of health myths, which adds to the complacency and suspicion surrounding vaccinations.

Low vaccination rates spark European outbreaks

According to a recent report published by the Vaccine Confidence Project, low trust in vaccinations is sparking an increase in outbreaks of the measles in Europe. Since 2010, 12 EU countries have seen a decrease in measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations. In 2017 this trend gave rise to the biggest measles outbreak in seven years, with cases almost quadrupling. It's not just a matter of sore throats and aching muscles, with seasonal influenza causing around 17,000 deaths a year in the EU.

“People don’t think flu is a very serious illness, as they are accustomed to less severe strains,” warns Professor Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “They think they’re healthy, that they know better. There’s an element of hubris involved - combined with social media storms and the popularity of herbal and alternative approaches.”

Vaccines "one of the greatest successes of public health of our time"

She warns that if influenza is left to run loose, a serious strain that people have never been exposed to before will eventually rear its head and spark a continental outbreak.

“You can’t create a high level of understanding about vaccines during a crisis. We need to make sure people have that base understanding already.”

Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety agrees, asserting the study confirms the need for immediate action.

“As a doctor I can honestly say that vaccination is truly one of the greatest successes of public health of our time and the most cost effective tool in our hands,” he says. “Some of the key issues we need to address are fighting misinformation and the lack of awareness in the general population on the risks posed by diseases preventable through vaccination.”

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