Flemish trust vaccines despite growing doubts about safety

Four out of five people in Flanders trust vaccines, according to a study by the University of Antwerp, although there is a growing reluctance among young people to be vaccinated. "There are more and more people with a growing number of questions about vaccines, especially about their safety," researcher Greet Hendrickx of UAntwerp told VRT NWS.

For the first time, the UAntwerp has investigated how much the Flemish population trusts vaccines. Some 83 per cent of the people surveyed consider vaccines important for children, and 78.6 per cent for adults.

Some 77. 8 per cent believe vaccines are safe, 80 per cent believe they are effective, and a further 74 per cent believe vaccination aligns with their religious, personal or philosophical beliefs. Overall, 57 per cent of people believe vaccines are important, safe, effective and in line with their beliefs.

Declining trust

The younger population (18-44 ) has less vaccine confidence than older generations (45 and over). While 40 per cent of the former believe that vaccines are important, safe, effective and in line with their beliefs, the figure for those aged 45 and over is around 68 per cent.

A large European and Belgian study in 2022 reached the same conclusions. The Belgian study also showed that the age gap is widening, with young people's trust in vaccines declining between 2018 and 2022.

"There are more and more people with a growing number of questions about vaccines, especially about their safety," said Hendrickx. "We see this more in the younger population than the older population, and also among parents with young children."

European trend

"The results of our research surprised us a little. When we look at how many people are vaccinated, Flanders is at the top of Europe. But when we look at vaccine confidence, we are in the middle of Europe.

Finally, the study shows that trust in vaccines varies according to the type of vaccine. About 7 out of 10 Flemish people consider the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer, to be safe or important. The Covid-19 vaccines do not fare so well: 67. 5 per cent think these vaccines are safe, and 70.9 per cent think they are important.

On Thursday, Flemish Health minister Hilde Crevits (CD&V) will announce new vaccination targets for 2030. "Thanks to our high vaccination rate, we protect children and adults against the most serious consequences of various diseases. In the coming years, we want to reach and protect specific target groups in our society even better," she said.



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