WHO warns of vaccine mistrust

Margaret Chan, the head of the World Health Organization, recently warned that the health community needs to head off the growing mistrust of vaccines that was demonstrated by signs of a fall in flu vaccinations.

Chan discussed the problem with the WHO executive board. She said the take up of the vaccine this season appears to have suffered, noting that in the northern hemisphere there have been reports of many severe cases of H1N1 influenza in the younger age groups, according to ZeeNews.com.

"In some cases, persuading the public to seek vaccination has become even more problematic than during the pandemic," Chan said at the beginning of the board's annual meeting, according to ZeeNews.com.

H1N1 has now become part of the seasonal influenza and is included in this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine.

During the height of the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, however, large stocks of vaccine sat unused in the stockpiles of Western nations as critics continually raised doubts about its safety and efficacy.

"We may need to accept the fact that public perceptions about vaccine safety can be permanently changed by unfounded fears, to an extent that no amount of evidence can change the public’s mind,” Chan said, ZeeNews.com reports. "This is a worrisome new trend that needs to be addressed."

A 2009 WHO study estimated that the rate of incomplete childhood vaccinations stood at around 44 percent. The report criticized the attitudes and knowledge of the parents as the primary cause of a child’s lack of proper immunization.