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A growing lack of trust in authority poses a serious danger to our health

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Virtually every Bangladeshi and Rwandan believes that vaccines are safe. Fewer than half of Japanese or French do so. In western Europe, almost one in six of those with college education reject vaccines. In southern Africa, you’re twice as likely to do so if you attended university.

These are among the often disturbing facts that tumble out of a new study, the Wellcome Global Monitor, published last week. A survey of 140,000 people from 140 countries, it is at heart an exploration of the relationship between science, trust and attitudes to vaccination.

Trust has become a vital political issue. Many worry about the erosion of confidence both in expertise and in public institutions and about the social consequences of that erosion. One is the growing refusal to believe medical authority, especially about vaccination. From measles outbreaks in America and Europe to the spread of Ebola in central Africa, scepticism about vaccines has had a devastating impact.

The Wellcome survey suggests that the relationship between scientific and social trust and attitudes to vaccination is more complex than many imagine. One might think, for instance, that better scientific education and greater confidence in healthcare professionals would be linked to greater trust of vaccines. It isn’t. There tends to be greater scepticism about........

© The Guardian