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Vaccinations in Europe - Statistics & Facts

Vaccination is the process in which a person, usually a child, gains immunity from a disease by being injected with a weakened or destroyed version of the bacteria or virus. This ‘teaches’ the body to create antibodies and therefore a resistance to the illness. It is much safer than being exposed to and catching the disease in normal life. Vaccination has been responsible for the eradication of smallpox, which, before a vaccine was found, was one of the most widespread diseases for hundreds of years.

In 2018, 94 percent of children of the relevant age in Europe received their first dose of the measles vaccination, while 89 percent received their second dose. Generally, children will receive the first dose of the measles vaccination between the ages of 12 and 18 months, and the second dose will take place around the age of three, just prior to the child entering formal education. Children will usually receive the vaccination alongside mumps and rubella within the MMR vaccine.

Generally, the share of children immunized with one dose of a measles vaccine has been increasing since the turn of the 21st century. However, the biggest spikes of measles cases in the last twenty years correspond with years in which a low share of children were vaccinated with two doses, therefore highlighting the importance of children receiving the full course of vaccination. It is recommended that 95 percent of a population should be vaccinated to stop the spread and eliminate diseases that can be prevented. Estonia had the lowest rate of measles vaccination in Europe in 2018, even with 87 percent of children getting the first dose of the measles vaccination. In 2019, 13,200 cases of measles were recorded in the EEA, and Italy had the highest number of cases reported in a single country at 2,636.

In Europe, as in other places around the world, there has been a rise of vaccine skepticism and hesitancy in recent years, defined by the ECDC as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services." In 2019, the WHO identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the principal threats to global health. In a 2018 survey, Bulgarians were found to have the highest vaccine skepticism in the European Union. In Latvia and France, confidence in the safety of vaccines was found to be under 70 percent. In another survey, Iceland and Norway were the only European countries in which more than 90 percent of respondents believed that vaccines are effective. Regarding the MMR vaccine in particular, Portugal had the highest faith in the EU in this vaccine. Approximately 97 percent of respondents in Portugal believed that the MMR vaccine is important for children to have, and 96 percent said they believe the vaccine to be safe.


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