Healthcare workers’ role in keeping MMR vaccination
uptake high in Europe: a review of evidence
B Simone1,2, P Carrillo-Santisteve1, P L Lopalco (firstname.lastname@example.org)1
1. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Stockholm, Sweden
2. Institute of Hygiene, Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy
Citation style for this article:
Simone B, Carrillo-Santisteve P, Lopalco PL. Healthcare workers’ role in keeping MMR vaccination uptake high in Europe: a review of evidence. Euro Surveill.
2012;17(26):pii=20206. Available online: http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20206
Article submitted on 17 November 2011 / published on 28 June 2012
Measles is a highly contagious and potentially fatal
disease. Europe is far from the 95% coverage rates
necessary for elimination of the disease, although
a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available. We
reviewed the literature on studies carried out in
European countries from January 1991 to September
2011 on knowledge, attitudes and practices of health
professionals towards measles vaccination and on
how health professionals have an impact on parental
vaccination choices. Both quantitative and qualitative
studies were considered: a total of 28 eligible articles
were retrieved. Healthcare workers are considered by
parents as a primary and trustworthy source of infor-
mation on childhood vaccination. Gaps in knowledge
and poor communication from healthcare workers are
detrimental to high immunisation rates. Correct and
transparent information for parents plays a key role in
parental decisions on whether to have their children
vaccinated. Healthcare workers’ knowledge of and
positive attitudes towards measles-mumps-rubella
(MMR) vaccination are crucial to meeting the measles
elimination goal. An effort should be made to overcome
potential communication barriers and to strengthen
vaccine education among healthcare professionals.
Measles is a highly contagious disease and a leading
cause of death among children below five years-old
worldwide, although a safe and cost-effective vaccine
is available . Although measles usually runs a sim-
ple course, serious complications can occur: the most
common in industrialised countries are otitis media
(in 7–9% of cases), pneumonia (1–6%), diarrhoea
(8%), post-infectious encephalitis (1 per 1,000–2,000
cases), subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) (1
per 100,000 cases) and death (1–3 per 1,000 cases)
. Women who are infected during pregnancy are at
greater risk of miscarriage and premature delivery .
Individuals at high risk of developing complications are
children under 5 years of age, adults and individuals
with chronic diseases and impaired immunity [1,3].
The most common way of administration of the mea-
sles vaccine is in combination with the mumps and
rubella vaccines (the trivalent mumps-measles-rubella
(MMR) vaccine), which is a combination of the three live
attenuated viruses. Since its introduction in the 1970s,
an estimated 500 million doses of MMR vaccine have
been administered in over 60 countries worldwide .
Some countries have adopted a quadrivalent vaccine
(MMRV), which also includes varicella .
Before vaccines were available, measles affected most
people by adolescence; today, thanks to routine vac-
cination programmes, the disease is not seen as fre-
quently in Europe. Eliminating measles and congenital
rubella syndrome – that is, reducing to zero the inci-
dence of infection  – is a goal that all European
countries are committed to meet by 2015 [6,7]. In order
to eliminate measles, it is necessary to reach and
maintain measles vaccination coverage at 95% [1,7].
Currently, however, the vaccination coverage is still far
from this level: in fact, a drop in vaccine coverage rates
to suboptimal levels has been reported in Europe in
recent years [8,9].
In the first eight months of 2011 alone, more than
29,000 cases of measles were reported in Europe.
About one third of them required hospitalisation and in
the first six months of the year, measles was responsi-
ble for eight deaths and 24 cases of acute encephalitis
Currently there is no standard European policy of
administration of the MMR vaccine: of 30 European
countries, vaccines are administered at the paediatri-
cian’s office in 7, in healthcare centres in 12, and in
multiple locations in 11 [10, and data from European
Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)
experts for Malta and Romania]. There are also consid-
erable discrepancies in the administration schedules
of the MMR vaccine among European Union (EU) coun-
tries: although the first dose is always recommended
by the age of 18 months in all countries, age at the
second dose of MMR vaccine varies widely, from 12
months to 15 years . Some EU countries have also
implemented catch-up vaccination programmes, which
are very heterogeneous in terms of age of those eligi-
ble (Table 1).
In spite of the solid evidence base on the efficacy and
safety of measles vaccination , attitudes and prac-
tices of healthcare workers in Europe appear at times
erratic: the misconception that measles is not a serious
threat to health persists, not only among the parents
of young children, but also among healthcare provid-
ers . In this sense, there is complacency towards
measles that is not present with regard to other vac-
cine-preventable diseases such as polio, tetanus or
bacterial meningitis, which are generally perceived as
extremely serious threats to health . Memory of
diseases and their severity fades quickly: because of
routine vaccination programmes, there are generations
of doctors, nurses and parents who have never seen
measles or complications caused by measles.
Especially after a British study linked the MMR vac-
cine to increased incidence of autism, Crohn disease
and other disorders , coverage in some European
countries dropped, resulting in measles outbreaks and
consistent burden of disease and costs . Although
the vaccine–autism controversy was dismissed and
the article retracted by the journal editors  and
System of vaccine delivery and age at first and second measles-mumps-rubella vaccine dose as recommended by national
programmes, by EU/EFTA country
7–9 y, 9–17 y
5–7 y, 14–16 y
Combined: both general practitioners/family doctors and paediatricians; EFTA: European Free Trade Association; EU: European Union;
GP/FD: general practitioner/family doctor; m: months; y: years.
a Data from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) experts.
Source: unless otherwise indicated, data adapted from the EUVACnet vaccination schedules , Van Esso et al.  and VENICE report ).
although all possible associations were repeatedly
disproven [15-17], the misconception that the vaccine
risks outweigh those related to acquiring natural mea-
sles immunity is still widespread among parents .
Practices such as measles parties are said to have
made a comeback in recent years  and anti-vacci-
nation groups are common and active, especially on
the Internet. Furthermore, the ever-increasing recourse
to alternative practices such as homeopathy has been
associated with higher rates of rejection of vaccines
The objectives of our study were: (i) to review the lit-
erature produced in European countries on the knowl-
edge, attitudes and practices of health professionals
towards measles vaccination and (ii) to assess how
health professionals have an impact on parental vac-
Studies reporting the knowledge, attitudes and prac-
tices of healthcare workers (general practitioners, pae-
diatricians, other doctors, nurses, midwives) towards
measles or MMR vaccination, as well as those report-
ing the influence of healthcare workers’ attitudes on
parental vaccination choices for their children, were
eligible for inclusion. Both quantitative (surveys) and
qualitative studies (focus groups) and reviews of litera-
ture focusing on one or more EU/European Economic
Area (EEA) countries were searched.
Types of data
The types of data collected were: prevalence and
characteristics (demographics, profession, practice/
training in alternative medicine) of healthcare work-
ers partially or entirely unfavourable to measles/MMR
vaccination; common reasons for advising against vac-
cination; prevalence of unvaccinated children attrib-
utable to healthcare workers’ knowledge, attitudes
and practices; opinions of parents towards healthcare
workers as a reliable source of information on MMR
vaccine efficacy and safety; and common reasons for
parental distrust towards healthcare workers.
Data sources and search methods
for identification of studies
We searched MEDLINE and Embase. All records with
the following terms were retrieved: attitude to health;
health personnel OR parents; vaccine OR immunisa-
tion; Europe OR EU OR [list of EU and EEA/European
Search strategy for review of studies reporting knowledge, attitudes and practices of healthcare workers towards measles or
MMR vaccination and those reporting the influence of healthcare workers’ attitudes on parental vaccination choices
28 articles included in the review
25 articles considered eligible
463 excluded because they were irrelevant to our query based on
title and abstract
31 excluded after reading the full text as they did not
fulfill the eligibility criteria
3 new articles included by hand search of references of
519 potentially relevant articles identified and screened for
retrieval in MEDLINE (463 results), Embase (further 56
results) and Cochrane Library (zero results) databases
Relevant studies reporting knowledge, attitudes and practices of healthcare workers towards measles or MMR vaccination
and those reporting the influence of healthcare workers’ attitudes on parental vaccination choices (n=28)
Study Setting Type of study Study population
Anastasi et al. 
Nine randomly selected boards of physicians,
Randomly selected kindergartens in Cassino
(Frosinone) and Crotone, Italy
Questionnaire survey 500 randomly selected paediatricians
Angelillo et al. 
Questionnaire survey 841 mothers of infants
d’éducation pour la
France Questionnaire survey 2,000 general practitioners
Hak et al. 
Day-care centres associated with a large
organisation, the Netherlands
Focus group and
283 parents of 3-month to 5-year-old
148 health visitors, 239 practice nurses
and 206 general practitioners
136 general practitioners, 78 practice
nurses, 40 health visitors
47 parents, 23 public health nurses, 14
midwives, 12 practice nurses
7,382 parents of 3 year-old children
Parents of 1,354 children aged 18 to 24
2,070 physicians subscribers
Petrovic et al.  North Wales Health Authority Area, UKQuestionnaire survey
Smith et al. 
Salford and Trafford Health Authority Area,
Cotter et al.  Counties Cork and Kerry, IrelandFocus group
Rotily et al.  12 counties, France
125 randomly selected clusters in 107
municipalities, Flanders, Belgium
Theeten et al. 
Posfay-Barbe et al.
Switzerland Questionnaire survey
97 general practices in the county of
Questionnaire survey171 general practitioners
Ernst [32,33]Questionnaire survey 45 homeopaths
Schmidt et al. UK Questionnaire survey
104 homeopaths and 22 chiropractors
registered on three websites
219 medically qualified homoeopathic and
281 non-homoeopathic physicians
69 parents of children aged between 4
and 5 years; 12 healthcare workers
Lehrke et al. GermanyQuestionnaire survey
McMurray et al.  Five general practices in the Leeds area, UK
Ramsay et al. UK
1,016 mothers of children aged ≤3 years
Pareek et al. Birmingham, UK Questionnaire survey
300 mothers of children approaching a
routine MMR vaccination
Coniglio et al. 
8 randomly selected day-care centres in
Catania, Sicily, Italy
Questionnaire survey Parents of 1,500 children aged 3–5 years
Impicciatore et al.  6 geographically dispersed centres in ItalyQuestionnaire survey
1,035 mothers of children
6 years-old or younger
203 parents of children who had no date
registered for MMR vaccination
at a child health centre
6,611 parents of children aged 0–2 years
(England, Norway, Poland, Sweden) and
0–3 years (Spain)
Parents of 1,110 children from Flanders
and 1,088 from Wallonia
1,016 mothers of children aged ≤3 years
Heininger GermanyQuestionnaire survey
Dannetun et al.  County of Östergötland, SwedenInterview survey
Stefanoff et al. England, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden
Swennen et al. Belgium Interview survey
Smith et al. UK Interview survey
Brown et al. 
Papers published in English between
1987 and 2008
Central Scotland, UK
A primary care trust in
north-east England, UK
Review 31 studies (23 from Europe)
Hilton et al.  Focus group72 parents
Casiday et al. 
Parents of 996 children born from
1 Oct 2000 to 30 Sep 2002
Ciofi degli Atti et al.
Italy Interview surveyParents of 4,602 children aged 2 years
MMR: measles-mumps-rubella; UK: United Kingdom.
Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries]. The Cochrane
Library was also consulted. The search covered arti-
cles published from 1 January 1991 to 27 September
2011, the date of the search. No language restriction
was applied in the search. Two researchers (PCS and
BS) reviewed the records independently, then dis-
cussed and agreed on the eligibility of each study. All
references of eligible articles were hand searched and
Data extraction and analyses
The following information was extracted for each study:
references, country/countries involved, setting and
characteristics of the healthcare workers interviewed,
including details of their professions, and summary of
the relevant data.
The MEDLINE search yielded 463 results and a further
56 results were obtained through Embase. No system-
atic review of measles/MMR was found in the search
of the Cochrane Library. Of the 519 overall articles
retrieved, 463 were discarded as the title and abstract
were not relevant and 31 after reading the full text as
they did not meet the eligibility criteria. A further three
articles were retrieved through hand search of refer-
ences from the eligible articles. A total of 28 articles
overall were included, as shown in the Figure and Table
Knowledge, attitudes and practices
of healthcare workers towards
A 2009 survey conducted among 156 Italian paediatri-
cians  reported that only 88% knew that measles
vaccination was recommended in the country, and only
35% knew the vaccination calendar. As for perceptions
of the utility of recommended vaccinations (including
MMR), paediatricians were asked to assign a score on a
scale from 1 to 10: only 10% of those sampled resulted
very favourable (scores of 9 or 10), although this per-
centage was significantly higher among those who
administered recommended vaccinations for infants
(odds ratio (OR):3.3; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.1–
9.9). Only a quarter of respondents administered the
recommended vaccinations (which include measles)
(26%), whereas among paediatricians who did not nor-
mally administer vaccines, 81% still advised parents to
have their children immunised for recommended vac-
cinations. A total of 83% of the paediatricians sampled
routinely provided information about recommended
vaccinations to their patients, whereas a lower per-
centage (78%) informed them about benefits and risks.
An article published in 1999 in the Bulletin of the World
Health Organization  reported that around 10% of
841 mothers of kindergarten children sampled from
two Italian towns declined MMR vaccination because
they were advised against it by healthcare profession-
als before deciding.
A French survey from 2001 from the French Committee
for Health Education (Commité français d’éducation
pour la santé)  categorised the attitudes of 2 000
general practitioners towards MMR vaccination into
those who were: (i) very favourable, i.e. those who
vaccinated systematically following the vaccination
calendar (41%); (ii) favourable, i.e. those who vacci-
nated depending on the situation and did not follow
the vaccination calendar systematically (56%); and (iii)
unfavourable, i.e. those who disregarded the vaccina-
tion calendar (3%). Overall, 6% of those sampled were
very or rather unfavourable to MMR vaccination. Those
who were unfavourable were mostly practitioners who
practiced homeopathy and/or alternative medicine and
who worked with higher social/educated classes. The
vaccination practices of practitioners who were favour-
able to the vaccination were also likely to improve after
further training on vaccination.
A survey performed in the Netherlands in 2005 ,
among 283 parents of children attending day-care cen-
tres, showed that a negative attitude towards future
vaccinations was significantly more common among
healthcare workers (OR: 4.2; 95% CI: 1.4–12.6) and
highly educated parents (OR: 3.3; 95% CI: 1.3–8.6) than
among other parents.
Following the MMR–autism controversy, several stud-
ies were carried out on practitioners’ attitudes towards
MMR vaccination in the United Kingdom (UK) and
Ireland. In north Wales, Petrovik et al.  found in
2001 that knowledge and practice among 593 health-
care professionals regarding the second MMR dose
varied widely: 48% of healthcare professionals had
reservations about the policy of giving the second
MMR dose and 3% disagreed with it.
From a UK survey from Smith et al. , 40% of the 136
responding physicians were unsure of the need for the
second dose and around 10% thought it unnecessary.
In Ireland, a survey in 2001 among 86 general prac-
titioners, nurses and parents  showed a negative
impact on vaccination uptake due to health profes-
sionals’ ambivalence about vaccinations, inability or
unwillingness to answer parents’ questions or lack of
empathy with parents concerned about the alleged
side effects of the vaccines.
A French telephone survey published in 2001 ,
among 7,382 parents, showed that the coverage was
significantly higher among children attended by a pae-
diatrician compared with children not attended by a
paediatrician (90.9% vs 85.4%, p<0.001).
A survey conducted in Flanders, Belgium, in 2004 
found that having completed the schedule for the MMR
vaccine depended on the vaccinating physician: chil-
dren mainly vaccinated by a general practitioner were
less likely to be completely vaccinated (adjusted OR:
0.3; 95% CI: 0.1–0.7) than children mainly vaccinated
by a paediatrician (reference group) and children vac-
cinated in a baby clinic or day-care centre were more
likely to have received a valid schedule (OR: 2.3; 95%
A survey conducted in Switzerland among physicians
 showed that 93% of the 2,070 surveyed physicians
agreed with current official vaccination recommenda-
tions and would apply them to their own children. As
for MMR vaccine, however, more paediatricians had
their children vaccinated with the vaccine according to
the recommended schedule than the other physicians
(OR: 2.8; 95% CI: 1.6–4.7). A statistically significant
number of non-paediatricians (4.8%) did not have their
own children vaccinated.
A total of 171 practitioners were interviewed in Denmark
in a 1991 survey on their attitude with regard to the
usefulness of MMR vaccination: all expressed a posi-
tive attitude, but only 56% of respondents expressed a
wholeheartedly positive attitude. Average vaccination
rates were connected with such attitudes, being 85%
in practices with unreservedly positive attitudes and
69% in practices with more guarded attitudes .
Providers of complementary
medicine and homeopaths
Providers of complementary medicine are sometimes
reported as having a negative attitude towards immu-
nisation in general, including MMR . Some studies
have shown that homoeopathic physicians do not rec-
ommend or apply vaccinations as frequently as their
allopathic colleagues [32-34].
A small study from Ernst et al.  in the UK (n=23)
on homeopaths’ attitudes towards vaccination showed
that all non-medically qualified homoeopaths refused
vaccinations (13/13) but only 3 of the 10 medically qual-
ified homoeopathic physicians did so.
In a 2002 UK study , Schmidt and Ernst evaluated
and compared the response of professional homoeo-
paths, chiropractors and general practitioners to an
inquiry about MMR vaccination. Of 104 homeopaths
who responded to the survey, 40 advised explicitly
against immunisation; another 26 withdrew their
answer after being told that the query was, in fact,
part of a research project. Out of 63 chiropractors, 3
advised against immunisation and 27 withdrew their
Lehrke et al.  performed a study in 2001 among
medically qualified homeopathic practitioners and
non-homeopathic physicians (both generalists and
paediatricians) in Germany about the administration
and recommendation of 17 different vaccinations in
their practices. The study showed that the respond-
ing homoeopathic physicians (n=219) did not generally
refuse vaccines but rather viewed them with a specific
hierarchy: the ‘classical’ vaccines against tetanus,
diphtheria and poliomyelitis were applied to nearly
the same degree as by their non-homoeopathic col-
leagues (n=281); however, vaccines against childhood
diseases, including measles, were judged as ineffec-
tive and accepted with more restraint by homoeopathic
A 2001 French survey  involving 7,382 parents
showed that coverage rates were significantly lower
among children whose parents exclusively or sought
advice from a homeopath (70%), as compared with
children whose parents never (92.1%) or sometimes
Impact of healthcare workers knowledge,
attitudes and practice on parental
vaccination choices for their children
Primary care providers have a central role in educat-
ing their patients on the safety and effectiveness of
the MMR vaccine and can influence the rates of MMR
immunisation just by answering parents’ questions
and addressing common misconceptions .
Several studies across Europe report that parents
consider healthcare workers to be the most important
source of information when deciding whether their chil-
dren should be immunised with the MMR vaccine: 74%
of mothers from a nationally representative sample
of over 1,000 in a 2002 survey conducted in England
reported seeking advice from health professionals
before having their children immunised with the vac-
cine . Information provided by healthcare workers
was considered as the most influential and reliable by
77–78% of the respondents in a 2000 UK survey involv-
ing 300 mothers .
In a 2011 study  conducted in Sicily, one of the
Italian regions with relatively high MMR vaccine cov-
erage rates (87%), the great majority of parents inter-
viewed (74%) singled out family paediatricians as the
most important source of information. A total of 63%
of mothers interviewed in a 2000 study  conducted
in Italy also reported paediatricians to be their most
important information source.
In Germany, 95% of respondents considered their pae-
diatrician as the most important source of information
in a 2006 online survey ; doctors and nurses from
Child Health Centres were trusted as the most impor-
tant source by 77% of interviewed parents in Sweden
in 2005 .
The first results from the European Vaccine Safety,
Attitudes, Training and Communication (VACSATC) pro-
ject of 2010  – comparing five cross-sectional sur-
veys of parents with children less than three years of
age in England, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden
(6,611 respondents) – showed that healthcare providers
ranked first among most used and most trusted sources
of information on vaccines. Health professionals were
the most trusted by 92% of respondents in England;
in Norway, the public health nurse was the most used
source (49%) and the public health doctor the most
trusted (67%); in Poland and Spain, the primary care
physician was both the most used (79% and 85%,
respectively) and most trusted (82% and 87%, respec-
tively) source; in Sweden the public health nurse was
used as main source of information by 82% of respond-
ents and was the most trusted by 87%.
The attitude of the physician was mentioned as being
very influential in the decision to vaccinate a child in
the French-speaking community in Belgium .
In contrast, another survey conducted in the UK in
2007 showed a sharp drop in the level of trust in health
professionals . However, a 2010 systematic review
by Brown et al. showed that parents are more likely to
trust the information given to them by their general
practitioners, health visitor or practice nurse than by
the government: this relationship was observed in all
five studies on the topic (p<0.05 in three of the five)
As seen in several studies, trust in individual health
professionals and vaccine policymakers can be com-
promised by perceived conflicting interests (such as
‘toeing the party line’, meeting targets and giving
financial compensation to doctors who reach high
vaccine coverage rates) [36,47]. Health providers who
were too resolute about the safety of the MMR vaccine
led to parents questioning the providers’ motives and
knowledge; conversely, when the healthcare provid-
ers sounded vague, some parents interpreted this as
concern that the vaccine was unsafe . Such percep-
tions can be counteracted to some degree by trust in
professional expertise and by healthcare workers shar-
ing their personal experience (for example, confirming
that they have vaccinated their own children) .
One of the most recurrently reported reasons for low
vaccine acceptance rates is dissatisfaction with the
adequacy of information provided to parents: a sur-
vey conducted in 2005 in the UK showed that 53% of
respondents felt that doctors were too dismissive of
parents’ concerns about vaccine side effects. This fig-
ure rose to 89% among those who declined vaccination
for their children .
A national survey conducted in Italy in 2003 showed
that lack of appropriate information accounted for 22%
of the missed or delayed MMR/measles vaccinations
and intercurrent illness for 29% .
Measles is a serious threat to public health: elimina-
tion of the disease in the EU is not only feasible, but
necessary. Europe failed to meet the goal of eliminating
measles by 2010, because of lower-than-required vac-
cination coverage. The commitment has been renewed,
to eliminate measles by 2015 . However, instead
of a progressive reduction of the disease in Europe,
incidence and the number of outbreaks increased dra-
matically over the past 15 years, with unacceptable con-
sequences in terms of mortality, morbidity and costs.
From our review, it is quite clear that doctors and other
healthcare providers are regarded as the most reliable
sources of information from parents. Healthcare work-
ers are generally trusted and consulted on whether
children should be vaccinated and they are in a good
position to empower parents to take an informed deci-
sion about MMR vaccination for their children. If this
is a reassuring thought, it has to be noted that trust
towards healthcare workers on motives to vaccinate
and safety and efficacy of the vaccine can be compro-
mised if inadequate or vague information is provided
or a conflict of interest perceived. For example, a his-
tory of safety issues cannot be denied but have to be
explained in a clear and transparent manner. Parents
need to be educated to make an informed choice.
Although a small percentage of practitioners, especially
providers of complementary medicine, are against vac-
cines on principle, we found that the main problem
among healthcare providers was lack of knowledge.
In most cases, suboptimal vaccination rates resulted
from inadequate knowledge among healthcare provid-
ers of vaccination schedules, as well as the benefits
and side effects. In some cases, healthcare provid-
ers were even found to have misleading beliefs about
immunisation and sent unclear or untrue messages
to parents. Whenever healthcare workers’ knowledge
was found to be inadequate, vaccination coverage
in the general population decreased. The same hap-
pened when healthcare workers were reported to have
a relaxed attitude towards measles, which is itself a
consequence of lack of knowledge of the disease infec-
tivity and morbidity.
Even among providers of complementary medicine,
medically qualified homeopaths tended to have a less
negative attitude towards immunisation as compared
with non-medically qualified practitioners .
A limitation of our study is related to the search strat-
egy. Studies published in journals that are not indexed
in MEDLINE and/or Embase (or cited in their references)
were not included in the review: this might have caused
us to overlook some evidence produced and published
at a national level, especially in languages other than
English. We know of at least one paper, published in
the German Epidemiologisches Bulletin in 2008 ,
that was not included in the review for this reason,
although the topic was relevant to our query. The
authors surveyed attitudes and knowledge of child-
hood vaccination among 549 German midwives: about
a quarter of the midwives interviewed did not sup-
port the administration of the MMR vaccine to children
and over 40% considered diseases such as measles
important for the personal development of the child.
The survey also reported that over 10% of the sample
disagreed with the statement ‘measles infection can be
fatal’. The survey showed a significantly lower support
for MMR vaccination among midwives trained in alter-
native medicine (p=0.025); furthermore, midwives who
declared that they were against the administration of
the vaccine were less likely to inform parents about the
availability of the vaccine (p=0.009).
Another potential limitation of this review is that all the
studies considered were produced in western Europe
(Table 2). This might warrant caution in the interpreta-
tion of the results. Attitudes and knowledge of immu-
nisation among healthcare providers might not be the
biggest problem in lower-resource countries, as in some
Central and Eastern European countries, where low cov-
erage rates might also be due to logistic and organisa-
tional issues in vaccine delivery. However, it should be
noted that, with the exception of Romania (4,015 con-
firmed cases), the major outbreaks of measles in 2011
were reported in western European countries: France
(15,206 confirmed cases), Italy (5,181 confirmed cases)
and Spain (1,986 confirmed cases) . For these coun-
tries, low vaccination coverage rates, and thus the high
incidence of measles, are unarguably, at least in part,
a consequence of a general complacency towards the
disease and of loose strategies for vaccination cover-
age. This is partly due to false myths and anti-vaccine
propaganda and partly to the fact that vaccination has
made measles an uncommon disease, diluting percep-
tions and memories of how threatening it can be.
In order to improve vaccination coverage, therefore, it is
fundamental to raise awareness about the disease and
fill any knowledge gaps of healthcare workers, provid-
ing them with evidence-based information on vaccines
and educating them to communicate effectively with
patients and parents; this could be attained through
dedicated websites and by emphasising vaccine educa-
tion in the medical and nursing curricula. The Council
of the European Union  has invited Member States
to make efforts along these lines.
Similar to the situation for healthcare workers, we
found that there was a small proportion of parents
who were very reluctant to have their children vacci-
nated with the MMR vaccine, regardless of proof of its
efficacy and safety. However, most vaccine-decliners
are simply under-informed or received misconceived
information [24,28,36,37,43,48]. Better informed and
trained health professionals could have a substantial
impact on the vaccination choices of those parents.
For example, the results of Ciofi degli Atti et al. are
indicative of the fact that that more efforts are needed
to educate mothers (as well as physicians) regarding
the risks associated with measles, as well as the fact
that intercurrent illness is rarely a contraindication to
Reaching 95% vaccine coverage is a priority for Europe.
Measles was eliminated in 2002 in the Americas through
universal coverage and active case surveillance .
One of the reasons behind this successful story in the
Americas was good coordination among a consortium
of countries. The Pan American Health Organization
developed an enhanced and, most importantly, inte-
grated disease elimination strategy .
The successful experience in the Americas shows the
added value of addressing measles elimination at the
European level. No country in Europe can attain it indi-
vidually: only a joint effort will succeed.
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