Poll: More parents believe vaccines are safe

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

In the wake of recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, one-third of parents polled as part of a recent study said they now believed that vaccines had more benefits than previously believed, and one-fourth felt that they were safer than they were a year ago.

Those findings are part of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, a nationally-representative survey conducted in May which looked at how the vaccine-related viewpoints of parents changed between 2014 and 2015. Over that time, there were more than two-dozen measles outbreaks reported throughout the US.

The poll found that 34 percent of parents believed vaccines have more benefit than one year ago, while 25 percent felt inoculations are safer now than they were in 2014. A whopping 35 percent reported more support for daycare and school vaccine requirements than just one year ago.

Parents changing attitudes

In a statement, Dr. Matthew Davis, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health as well as a professor pediatrics and internal medicine at UM Medical School, said that media reports of the measles and whooping cough outbreaks may have had an influence on parents, and that the shift in opinions on childhood vaccines over just one year was “quite remarkable.”

“There are likely many reasons why parents’ attitudes and beliefs about childhood vaccines are shifting over time,” Dr. Davis told redOrbit via email. “Certainly in the past year, we know that there are many outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough that have received local and national media coverage. Information about such outbreaks may very naturally affect parents’ views, and that appears to be happening for this issue.”

Most moms and dads said they believed that vaccines had the same benefits as they did in 2014, and that their safety had remained the same. However, seven percent said they felt the vaccines were not as safe in 2015 as they had been last year, while five percent said they believed there were fewer benefits to the inoculations, and six percent were less supportive of school and daycare entry requirements.

Attitude shifts being echoes in new state laws

The UM poll also asked parents about their opinions regarding the risk of measles and whooping cough compared to a year ago. Forty percent of those who responded said that they believed there was a higher risk of children contracting measles now than there was a year ago, while 45 percent said it was about the same and just 15 percent believed it was lower.

“In our eight-plus years of conducting the National Poll on Children’s Health, it is typical for 80 percent or more of parents to say that their views on central health issues have not changed over time. However, in this poll, we found that only 60 to 70 percent of parents said that their views were consistent over time, and higher proportions than usual said that their views had shifted – in this case, toward more positive views of the benefits and safety of vaccines,” Dr. Davis said.

“It’s important to emphasize that the purpose of our Poll is to bring the voice of the public into the national dialogue about children’s health and child health policy issues,” he added. “These are not my opinions, or the opinions of my team or the university. Rather, these are the views of parents across the country about an issue central to children’s health, and we are seeing shifts over time that are already being echoed in changes in state laws about childhood vaccination and vaccination exemptions – for example, in California just within the past two weeks.”

Under that new California law, children will no longer be able to skip the shots typically required to attend school because of the religious or personal objections. Unvaccinated children will only be allowed to go to school if there is a valid medical reason why they cannot be immunized, such as receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer.


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