One In Five Brits Incorrectly Believe Autism Is Linked to Vaccines

One of the country's top doctors has warned that the medical profession must do more to tackle myths about vaccines, as a poll reveals over half of Britons think they could be linked to autism.

The finding comes in a new Ipsos Mori poll that shows British people think the world is worse than it is on a wide variety of measures.

Some 20 percent of British respondents to the survey, which covered 38 countries and tested the public's perception of a range of issues against reality, believe that some vaccines are linked to autism.

Meanwhile 35 percent say they don't know, while 45 percent say this claim is false.

"Vaccines are one of the most important discoveries in medical history, and are one of our most powerful tools to control infectious disease in the U.K. and globally," said Professor Sir Robert Lechler, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

"It is of concern that despite the fact there is absolutely no link between vaccination and the development of autism, concerns still remain in some people's minds.

"The medical community must take this seriously—we need to do more to explain the process of research and empower people to make medical choices based on evidence."

Vaccines Needles
Needles for vaccinations in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 24, 2017. British people are mostly not aware that claims of links between vaccines and autism have been debunked. Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

Elsewhere in the poll, it was revealed that a majority of Britons are unaware that the murder rate has dropped significantly since the turn of millennium.

A substantial 36 percent of respondents thought that the murder rate had gone up over the last 17 years, while 39 percent guessed that the figure was about the same.

In truth, the murder rate in Britain has dropped by 29 percent since the year 2000, but only 19 percent knew that the number had fallen.

And vast numbers of Brits also believe that more people have died in terrorist atrocities in recent years compared to the last part of the 20th century, when in fact the reverse is true.

Between 2002-2016, 62 people died in British terror incidents while more than 300 died between 1985 and the year 2000.

Yet only 15 percent of Britons correctly identified that the more recent figure should be lower, while 47 percent thought the figure would be larger, and 29 percent thought that the two numbers would be similar.

Immigration was also widely misunderstood as an issue by Britons. The public guessed that 34 percent of the prison population was born overseas. In truth, just 11 percent were.

Across the nations surveyed, many people thought the situation in their country on issues ranging from murder to the prevalence of diabetes is worse than it actually is. Britain was among the least confused nations, ranking 9th for accuracy overall.