Posted by Roger Mallett Posted on 20 May 2024

Six Explanations for Rising Vaccine Hesitancy

The Rise in Vaccine Hesitancy is a Fact

In April last year, UNICEF reported that vaccination coverage had decreased in 112 countries and 67 million children had missed out on at least one vaccination over 2020–23 because of lockdown-caused disruptions and diminished confidence in vaccines. Measles rates had doubled globally in 2022 compared to 2021 and polio was up by 16 percent. Overall, UNICEF recorded “the largest sustained backslide in childhood immunisation in 30 years.”

Out of 55 countries that UNICEF looked at, public perceptions of the importance of childhood vaccines fell in 52 countries, by as much as 44 percent in some countries. China, India, and Mexico were the only countries where faith in vaccines held firm. The report warned that “the confluence of several factors suggest the threat of vaccine hesitancy may be growing,” including: “uncertainty about the response to the pandemic…declining trust in expertise, and political polarisation.”

Measles are on the rise even in industrialised Western countries. On 24 January, the BBC, quoting the WHO, reported that there was a 45-fold rise in measles cases in Europe in 2023 (42,200 cases) compared to 2022 (900 cases). UK outbreaks are at their highest levels since the 1990s. Herd immunity against measles requires around 95 percent immunisation of five-year-olds, but in parts of the UK, the level is down to 75 percent and as low as 56 percent in some London boroughs.

While some of this might be the lingering effect of lockdown-era disruptions of immunisation services, in part it also arises from falling trust in public health edicts and institutions that has spilled over into a more generalised vaccine hesitancy. Polling conducted by the campaigning group UsForThem showed that:

  • Only 52 percent of people believe the UK government was honest about the risk-benefits equation of Covid vaccines;
  • The share of parents of children under 18 likely to give their child government-recommended vaccines has fallen from 84 percent before the pandemic to 60 percent;
  • Almost twice as many people (57-30 percent) believe ministers were dishonest rather than honest about the necessity for Covid restrictions; and
  • 72 percent no longer trust public health information and government briefings.

In other words, Molly Kingsley wrote on behalf of the group, “manipulative vaccination policies and deceptive propaganda campaigns, unsurprisingly, have decimated trust in public health, and childhood immunisations in particular.”

The key word in Kingsley’s sentence is “unsurprisingly.” In this article, we identify six Covid-management-related policies as likely explanations for the growth of vaccine hesitancy.

Read More – Six Explanations for Rising Vaccine Hesitancy


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