Scepticism about the use of vaccines for children has risen across Europe in line with votes for populists, according to a study, which proposes that public health officials should track populist parties in opinion polls as a proxy signal for vaccine hesitancy.

Big surges in the number of measles cases and deaths map to countries where populist parties have become prominent – in particular, Greece, Italy and France.

The paper, in the European Journal of Public Health, says there is an underlying link between anti-establishment politics and vaccine hesitancy.

“It seems likely that scientific populism is driven by similar feelings to political populism – ie profound distrust of elites and experts by disenfranchised and marginalised parts of the population,” writes the author, Jonathan Kennedy from Queen Mary University of London.