Rwanda, Bangladesh have highest levels of trust in vaccines – study

In both countries, the report shows, “success in achieving very high immunisation rates was achieved despite numerous challenges in implementation.”
A nurse at Kagugu Health Centre immunises primary school pupils. / Sam Ngendahimana

Rwanda and Bangladesh have the highest level of trust in vaccines globally, according to the world’s biggest survey on public attitudes toward health and science.

The first-ever Welcome Global Monitor says that the two countries showed a higher level of agreement on whether “vaccines were safe, effective and important for children to have.”

Globally, France has the lowest of confidence in vaccines.

Rwanda and Bangladesh “are two of the most notable countries that achieve very high rates of agreement on all three items: vaccine safety, their effectiveness and the importance of children having them.”

In both countries, the report shows, “success in achieving very high immunisation rates was achieved despite numerous challenges in implementation.”

“Rwandans are the most likely to express confidence in the hospitals and health clinics in their country– with 97% expressing this sentiment,” the study – conducted as part of the Gallup World Poll 2018 – says.

It adds: “Rwandans are the most likely people worldwide to express confidence in their healthcare system, at 97%. This strong vote of confidence in the country’s healthcare system likely reflects the extraordinary improvements in the country’s healthcare system that have taken place over the past two decades.

“Over that time, life expectancy has increased by more than a third and the decrease in the infant mortality rate has been hailed by UNICEF as ‘one of the most significant in human history.’”

More recently, the new survey says, “the Gallup World Poll finds that the percentage of people in Rwanda who are satisfied with the quality of healthcare in their city or area has risen from 65% in 2008 to 82% in 2018.”

Other countries where people are most confident in their healthcare system include Malaysia (96%), Singapore (94%), Tajikistan (92%), Malta (92%), Denmark (90%) and Switzerland (90%), it shows.

Rwanda’s ‘tremendous success’

“In general, these countries make healthcare services freely available to most, if not all, of their citizens.”

“In Rwanda, according to the WHO, the country has seen tremendous success and progress in its vaccination programme over the past two decades,” says the new world report.

In 1995, Rwanda’s immunisation coverage rate was less than 30% and incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases was very high, the study says.

“Over the past two decades, the authorities have adopted an approach that included working with international partners, local community health workers, and adopting technological solutions that could be adapted locally, in order to raise the immunisation coverage rate, which now stands at a remarkable 95%, with gender and geographic equity.”

The authorities have also successfully introduced six new vaccines into the routine immunisation programme, and the number of vaccine-preventable diseases has dropped significantly, it adds.

This survey, which includes responses from 140,000 people in over 140 countries,   is the biggest global study into attitudes on immunisation suggests confidence is low in some regions.

The World Health Organization says vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health.

The Wellcome Global Monitor 2018 shows high overall global trust in doctors, nurses and scientists, and confidence in vaccines.

Western Europe is the region with the lowest confidence levels in relation to vaccines with more than a fifth (22 per cent) of people also disagreeing that vaccines were safe, while in Eastern Europe where 17 per cent disagreed that vaccines were effective.

"I guess you could call it the 'complacency effect,'" Imran Khan, Wellcome's head of public engagement, who led the study, told AFP.

The study showed that most people in lower-income areas agreed vaccines were safe. The highest number was in South Asia, where 95% of people agreed, followed by Eastern Africa, where the figure was 92%.

Rwanda became the world's first low-income country to provide young women universal access to the HPV vaccine that protects against cervical cancer.

Scepticism

Khan said: "It shows what can be achieved with concerted effort to improve vaccine uptake…I think we expected that general trend, because where we have seen that scepticism and concern about vaccines, that tends to be in more developed countries.

"But I think the extent of the difference is surprising and some of those numbers were really startling," he was quoted as saying.

Globally, 79 percent of people agreed that vaccines are safe and 84 percent said they were effective.

It also shows that half the world’s population say they know little, if anything, about science. And almost one in five feels excluded from the benefits of science.

This first-of-a-kind global survey clearly shows that people’s beliefs about science are deeply influenced by their culture, context, and background, Khan said. “We need to care more about these connections if we want everyone to benefit from science.”

The survey will provide a baseline of evidence to assess how attitudes change over time, according to Wellcome. It “will also help inform policies to improve public engagement with science and health.”

Key findings

* Three-quarters of the world’s population trust doctors and nurses more than anyone else for health advice.
* Globally, around eight in 10 people agree vaccines are safe, and nine in 10 people worldwide say their children have been vaccinated.
* People living in high-income countries have the lowest confidence in vaccines.
* In most parts of the world, higher confidence in health systems, governments and scientists is a sign of high trust in vaccines – but the picture is more complicated in Europe.
* In almost every region of the world men are significantly more likely to say they have a good level of understanding of science compared with women.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

ADVERTISEMENT