Parents’ views on vaccines shifting owing to extensive media coverage

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A nation-wide pole in the US has found that parents’ views towards vaccines are changing for the better and also provides a view of how vaccines are being perceived in different states.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health saw researchers ask parents in May this year about their views on vaccinations and how they have changed between 2014 and 2015 – the same period during which two dozen measles outbreaks were reported in the U.S., including a multi-state outbreak traced to Disneyland.

Researchers found that one-third of the respondents now perceived vaccines has more beneficial, while one-quarter perceived vaccines to be safer now than a year ago. One–third of parents also reported being more supportive of school and daycare entry requirements for vaccination than they were the previous year.

Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the U-M Medical School is of the opinion that high-profile news stories and coverage about outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough may have influenced parents’ perception about vaccines across the country.

“For a quarter to a third of parents to say that their views on the safety and benefits of vaccines have shifted in just a year’s time is quite remarkable. Parents’ perceptions that vaccines are safer and offer more benefits are also consistent their stronger support of daycare and school entry requirements for immunizations.”

The poll also saw parents give their opinions about the risk of measles and whooping cough compared to a year ago. Two out of every five parents, or 40 per cent, believe the risk of measles for children in the U.S. is higher than what it was one year ago. Another 45 percent say the risk is about the same and 15 percent say the risk is lower.

Majority of parents polled believe vaccines have the same benefits as a year ago and think the safety of vaccines has stayed the same. A minority of parents also had less favorable views on vaccines, with 7 per cent perceiving less safety, 5 per cent perceiving fewer benefits and 6 per cent saying they were less supportive of school and daycare entry requirements that the previous year.

“Outbreaks of disease can safely be prevented through childhood vaccination, but there are deeply-held convictions about parents’ autonomy and remaining concerns among some parents about vaccine safety,” says Davis, who is also with the U-M School of Public Health, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and deputy director for U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

“Media coverage of outbreaks over the past year, accompanied by messages about vaccines for whooping cough and measles, may be swaying parents’ opinions toward stronger beliefs in the positive aspects of vaccines. The impact of such shifts in perception will ultimately be measured by whether more parents vaccinate their kids.”