Vaccines have developed something of a PR problem in many places.

From suspicions about safety to religious objections, a vital medical advance, which scientific consensus regards as a universally good idea, has run into some serious opposition around the world.

The extent of the problem has been highlighted by new research which shows the results of a large international survey into attitudes towards vaccines. In all, 66,000 people in 67 countries were asked about vaccines and their thoughts on vaccine safety, effectiveness and compatibility with religious beliefs.

Now, the Scientific American has taken the data from the study and created a series of maps showing where attitudes are most negative and why.

Safety concerns

France stands out as the most sceptical nation when it comes to safety, but it is far from alone. Russia shows strong reservations while the United States, China, Italy and Greece are close behind.

There is still significant worry among the populations of Australia, Canada, India and much of South America and Western Europe.

Doubts about effectiveness

For many the worry is not about safety – they simply do not believe vaccines work. Russia and France are both shown to be sceptical with lower levels of concern evident right across the world.

Religious belief

When it comes to religious beliefs, a conflict seems to emerge in Southeast Asia and Mongolia. Whereas the public seemingly has little doubt as to the safety or effectiveness of vaccines, may eschew them on religious grounds.

As the lead author of the study, Heidi Larson, points out, “Public trust in immunization is an increasingly important global health issue. Losses in confidence in vaccines and immunization programs can lead to vaccine reluctance and refusal, risking disease outbreaks and challenging immunization goals in high- and low-income settings.”