Under-vaccinated groups in Europe and their beliefs, attitudes and reasons for non-vaccination; two systematic reviews

BMC Public Health. 2018 Jan 30;18(1):196. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-5103-8.


Background: Despite effective national immunisation programmes in Europe, some groups remain incompletely or un-vaccinated ('under-vaccinated'), with underserved minorities and certain religious/ideological groups repeatedly being involved in outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases (VPD). Gaining insight into factors regarding acceptance of vaccination of 'under-vaccinated groups' (UVGs) might give opportunities to communicate with them in a trusty and reliable manner that respects their belief system and that, maybe, increase vaccination uptake. We aimed to identify and describe UVGs in Europe and to describe beliefs, attitudes and reasons for non-vaccination in the identified UVGs.

Methods: We defined a UVG as a group of persons who share the same beliefs and/or live in socially close-knit communities in Europe and who have/had historically low vaccination coverage and/or experienced outbreaks of VPDs since 1950. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsycINFO databases using specific search term combinations. For the first systematic review, studies that described a group in Europe with an outbreak or low vaccination coverage for a VPD were selected and for the second systematic review, studies that described possible factors that are associated with non-vaccination in these groups were selected.

Results: We selected 48 articles out of 606 and 13 articles out of 406 from the first and second search, respectively. Five UVGs were identified in the literature: Orthodox Protestant communities, Anthroposophists, Roma, Irish Travellers, and Orthodox Jewish communities. The main reported factors regarding vaccination were perceived non-severity of traditional "childhood" diseases, fear of vaccine side-effects, and need for more information about for example risk of vaccination.

Conclusions: Within each UVG identified, there are a variety of health beliefs and objections to vaccination. In addition, similar factors are shared by several of these groups. Communication strategies regarding these similar factors such as educating people about the risks associated with being vaccinated versus not being vaccinated, addressing their concerns, and countering vaccination myths present among members of a specific UVG through a trusted source, can establish a reliable relationship with these groups and increase their vaccination uptake. Furthermore, other interventions such as improving access to health care could certainly increase vaccination uptake in Roma and Irish travellers.

Keywords: Anthroposophic; Attitude regarding vaccination; Beliefs vaccine; Europe; Irish Travellers; Low vaccination coverage; Religion; Roma; Under-vaccinated groups; Vaccine preventable diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Europe
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Treatment Refusal / psychology*
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*