How many children in Europe receive the full two doses of the measles vaccine?

  • A. 30%
  • B. 60%
  • C. 90%

Correct answer

In 2018, 91% of children in Europe received the two full doses of the measles vaccine. More children in Europe are being vaccinated against this disease than ever before! Options A and B aren’t just wrong — they’re very wrong. 60% would have been the correct answer for Europe as recently as the early 2000s, while 30% was the global figure at around the same time. Over the last two decades, however, things have progressed substantially.

There are still gaps in vaccination in some countries — particularly among small communities, in the older population, and in areas in conflict. That’s why cases of measles have risen in Europe over the past couple of years (about 80,000 cases in 2018, compared to about 24,000 in 2017). Due to media coverage, people in Europe are very well aware of this, which is probably why they might think vaccination rates are lower than they actually are.

Data sources

The evidence for the correct answer comes from the World Health Organization:,,

Europeans don’t know that almost all their children are immunized against measles

This time our German respondents scored best… if we can call it that! Still only 20% of them got it right. The United Kingdom came in second with 19%, while France brought up the rear with 18%. This isn’t exactly encouraging — more than 80% thought the proportion of European children fully vaccinated against measles was far lower than in reality.

Why do people pick the wrong answer?

Why do people pick the wrong answers? Because they think that if one thing is getting worse, then EVERYTHING must be getting worse! Clearly, people in Europe don’t realize that the vast majority of their children are getting the full two vaccine doses against this terrible disease. And ignorance about this fact is getting even worse as a result of news stories about the increasing number of measles cases across Europe (and the world). If cases are increasing, then the vaccination rates must be either low, or going down, or both… right? Wrong! The spread of measles is mainly due to issues related to confidence in the vaccine among fractions of the population, as well as logistical problems in areas where there is conflict. It’s not caused by a reduction in vaccinations overall.

How many of the world’s 1-year-old children today have been vaccinated against some disease?

  • A. 20 percent
  • B. 50 percent
  • C. 80 percent

Correct answer

According to the World Health Organization’s Observatory data repository, in 2017 88% of the world’s 1-year-olds had been vaccinated against at least one disease.

Why the Wrong Answers are VERY Wrong

A) 20 percent

Incredibly, this figure would have been accurate as recently as 1980, so comfortably within living memory. However, a huge amount of work has been done to improve access to vaccinations around the world, and things have moved on a long, long way.

B) 50 percent

This would have been correct in 1985, by which time a serious amount of energy and resources had already been devoted to improving access to vaccinations. Thankfully the incredible work has continued over the last four decades, and the current figure of 88% continues to rise.

The ignorance we found

Just 13% of our respondents chose the right answer. That means out of 12,000 respondents, more than 10,400 got this question completely wrong.

And even when we look at responses by country, there is no good news. Sweden with the top performers this time with a measly (pardon the pun) 21% correct answers, while Japan, Germany, and France scored worst with a miserable 6%.


The remaining answers were split fairly evenly between the two wrong answers. 45% of respondents thought only half of 1-year-olds were vaccinated against at least one disease, while 43% of respondents thought the figure was just 20%!

Why do people pick the wrong answer?

Media and charity coverage of the poorest areas of the world has many people in the richest countries believing that:

  1. The world is divided into “the rich” and “the poor”; and,
  2. People in poor countries are living in extreme poverty, with no access to essentials like vaccines.

Of course, neither of these are true. In fact, most people live somewhere in between the extremes, and have access to most (if not all) the things they need to live happy, healthy lives.

At the same time, many people in the richest countries are suffering from what we call the “negativity instinct”. Simply put, they believe the world is getting worse over time. But again, this is completely inaccurate. In fact, almost everything—including access to vaccines and other basic medical care—is getting better over time.

Unfortunately, since most people in the richest countries only hear about the rest of the world via the media—and the media only covers negative stories—this inaccurate worldview is extremely prevalent.