Irish people’s trust in vaccines is below the global average, it has been revealed.
A study by the Wellcome Trust looked at over 140 countries and found that on average 79% of people think vaccines are safe.
The level of trust in them is at 74% in Ireland, and just 59% in western Europe overall.
The study stated that public mistrust in vaccines has led to a step backwards in fighting deadly but preventable infectious diseases.
The World Health Organisation recently named vaccine hesitancy as a key threat to global health.
The organisation’s figures show that international vaccine coverage has stalled at 85%.
Dr Anne Moore, senior lecturer in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at UCC, explained that vaccine acceptance is an issue.
“There is a problem of vaccine acceptance by some people,” she said.
“There’s the anti-vaxx movement which is incredibly dangerous but there are also people who might have been slightly influenced by it and are now vaccine hesitant.
“They’re not against them but they’re hesitant about getting their children immunised,” she added.
“It’s that proportion of people that need to be encouraged to vaccinate their child and assured that vaccines are safe.” Recent outbreaks of measles, meningitis and tuberculosis across Ireland and Europe has led to concerns that the anti-vaxx movement is making its mark.
“One of the reasons we have seen a resurgence in measles, apart from the fact that it is incredibly contagious, is the decrease in vaccine rates and therefore, in herd immunity also,” said Dr Moore.
“We have a very effective vaccine that is very safe to prevent measles.
“The virus can transmit throughout the community because not enough people are vaccinated,” she added.
“Because measles is so contagious, we do need a very high rate of vaccination to prevent it spreading.” As a result, the anti-vaxx movement is putting people at risk, according to Dr Moore.
“It’s even putting healthy people in danger as well if they haven’t been vaccinated,” she said.
“There is a concern that the anti-vaxxers are getting their message through in Ireland.”