Despite Measles Outbreak, Greeks Still Don't Trust Vaccines

Αssociated press

(AP Photo/Leo Correa, FILE)

ATHENS – Even soaring measles cases haven't convicted Greeks notoriously skeptical of vaccines that immunization shots work with rates down and outbreaks up, a study published by the European Commission showed, ranking Greece among the lowest in trust in vaccinations.

“The European region has lower confidence in the safety of vaccines than other regions in the world,” EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said ahead of World Polio Day on Oct. 25.

“Seven out of the 10 countries with the lowest vaccine confidence in the world are in Europe,” he said, noting that four – France, Greece, Italy, and Slovenia – are in the EU. Still the report found that Greece is among the countries where trust in vaccines has inched up since 2015, while the Czech Republic, Finland, Poland and Sweden display rising levels of mistrust, Kathimerini said.

Recent outbreaks of measles reveal the impact of fewer vaccines and should prompt governments to boost awareness, the report said.

By March, Greece had already recorded 2,099 cases of measles, most in the unvaccinated gypsy or Roma community, which has a population of more than 300,000 across the country, a big jump in the incidence of the disease.

The highly contagious infectious virus spread because of a lack of immunizations with most of the cases showing in southern Greece among the gypsy population with three deaths recorded so far by the Hellenic Center for Disease and Control Prevention (HCDCP).

Children have been predominantly hit but there’s a big number of cases as well among young to middle-aged adults from 25-44 in the general population, the business newspaper Naftermoriki said.

Roma make up 65 percent of registered cases (1,263 out of 1,976), the rest of the population accounts for 25 percent of cases, and the other 10 percent comprises foreign nationals.

In September, 2017, there were already 196 cases. The head of the Hellenic Pediatric Society, Andreas Konstantopoulos, said then that 350,000 children aged 15 months to four years old had not been vaccinated, adding that it is unknown how many Greeks born after 1970 have received one dose – or none- of the MMR vaccine.

Konstantopoulos also said he’s in favour of making vaccination a compulsory requirement for the registration of children at school although some groups don’t believe in them and even think it’s part of a government conspiracy to inoculate their children.