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Video: Scientists Have Found A Link Between Political Populism And Mistrust Of Vaccinations
Scientists have found a link between political populism and mistrust of vaccinations
Scientific populism appears to be driven by sentiments similar to those that provoke political populism, for example, a deep distrust of elites and experts on the part of disadvantaged and marginalized populations. Even if programs objectively improve health, communities that distrust elites and experts may view it with suspicion.
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Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have found a significant link between rising populism in Europe and levels of vaccine mistrust. The results are published in the European Journal of Public Health.
“Scientific populism appears to be driven by sentiments similar to those that generate political populism, such as the deep distrust of elites and experts on the part of disadvantaged and marginalized populations,” said lead author Dr. Jonathan Kennedy. “Even if programs objectively improve the health of target populations, communities that do not trust elites and experts may view it with suspicion. In the case of vaccine distrust, the question is focused on public health experts and pharmaceutical companies promoting vaccines.”
The researchers used nationwide data from 14 European countries regarding the vote in the 2014 European Parliament elections, as well as the 2015 Vaccine Confidence Project. The analysis revealed a significant positive relationship between the percentage of people in the country who voted for populist parties and the percentage of those who consider vaccines unimportant and ineffective.
The researchers note that the roots of the current mistrust in vaccination are in a 1998 Lancet publication by Andrew Wakefield on the link between MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and autism.
The MMR vaccination rate in the UK fell from 92% (1995) to 79% (2003), well below the 95% threshold for herd immunity to function. The number of confirmed measles cases in England and Wales increased from 56 (1998) to 1370 (2008).
Wakefield was removed from the UK medical register and the study was withdrawn. However, his ideas remain influential and are responsible for the rise in measles cases in Europe over the past few years.
There is additional anecdotal evidence of a link between the rise of populist politicians and political movements in Western Europe and rising levels of vaccine mistrust. For example, voters in the United Kingdom Independence Party, according to a poll, are almost five times more likely than the general population to view the CCP as unsafe.
But the most prominent example is Italy, where the Five Star Movement has raised concerns about the link between the CCP and autism. The result was a decrease in MMR vaccination coverage from 90% (2013) to 85% (2016) and, accordingly, an increase in measles cases from 840 (2016) to 5000 (2017).
Despite this, the upper house of the Italian parliament, supported by recently elected representatives of the Five Star Movement and the right-wing populist League, passed legislation to abolish the compulsory vaccination of children enrolled in public schools.
The French National Front and Greek SYRIZA have also raised concerns about the safety of vaccines and laws on compulsory vaccination of children.
Donald Trump also met with well-known anti-vaccines, including Andrew Wakefield. In 2014, he tweeted: “A healthy little child goes to the doctor, gets an array of shots of many vaccines, doesn't feel well and is changing - AUTISM. There are many such cases!"
“Mistrust in vaccination will be difficult to resolve if not to eliminate the root causes of populism - an unfair economic system and an unrepresentative political system,” concluded Jonathan Kennedy.
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