Investigators: Marie Neunez, Anna Wozniak, Hilde Stevens, Michel Goldman, Olivier Klein, Pierre Smeesters
The complex phenomena of vaccine hesitancy varies over time, in place and between vaccines, and is linked to a cultural, local or national context, but threatens to reverse medical progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases. As one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease, vaccination prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, a number that could potentially be doubled if global coverage of vaccinations would further be improved, consequently bringing down the costs related to healthcare. In 2019, vaccine hesitancy has been declared as one of the ten major threats for global health, which legitimates the need for coordinated actions and collective intelligence of all stakeholders involved in vaccine strategies for development and implementation, both on the national and the international level.
The situation in Belgium, although less chaotic than in France, raises questions, especially since uniformity is lacking between the vaccination programs in the Flanders Region and the Brussels- Wallonia Region (e.g., HPV vaccination programs reach a level of 90% in Flanders and only 36% in the Brussels-Wallonia Region). For this research, Marie Neunez was awarded with a Pediatric Research Fellow grant from The Belgian Kids’ Fund. She is investigating the impact of anti-vaxx movements and « fakes news » on this problem of vaccine reluctance) and will test an educational tool for school children in the Brussels-Wallonia Region. Finally, recommendations for strategies are made to improve the situation and increase vaccine confidence.