February 26, 2014
Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theories May Lower Vaccination Rate
Rebekah Eliason for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Within an hour of birth it is suggested that children receive their first vaccinations.Interestingly, many people balk at the idea of vaccinating their infants and children due to an overwhelming amount of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. These rumors often fill parents with fear when it comes time for the nurse to shove the dreaded needle into their little one. However, many people attaching to these theories forget the devastating impact of the diseases that vaccines protect from.
New research from the University of Kent suggests that the influence of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may have a detrimental impact on children’s health.
In a survey by psychology researchers Daniel Jolley and Dr Karen Douglas 89 people were asked to share their opinion on anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. The participants were then asked to indicate if they intended to vaccinate a fictional child. The scientists discovered that the more intense a person’s belief in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories were the less chance they intended to vaccinate.
A second study involving 188 participants was also performed. All participants were exposed to information about anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. Afterwards, one group received refuting information while the other group did not. There was also a group serving as a control. It was found that reading about anti-vaccine literature lowered the intention of people to vaccinate a fictional child when compared with the other two groups.
Daniel Jolley Said, “This research is timely in the face of declining vaccination rates and recent outbreaks of vaccinated-against diseases in the UK, such as measles. Our studies demonstrate that anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may present a barrier to vaccine uptake, which may potentially have significant and detrimental consequences for children’s health.”
Additionally Dr Douglas stated, “It is easy to treat belief in conspiracy theories lightly, but our studies show that wariness about conspiracy theories may be warranted. Ongoing investigations are needed to further identify the social consequences of conspiracism and to identify potential ways to combat the effects of an ever-increasing culture of conspiracism.”
The study, titled “The effects of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories on vaccination intentions,” was published in the online journal PLOS ONE.