Vaccine Safety Attitudes Shifting Following Measles Oubreaks

One quarter of parents believe vaccines are safer now than they thought a year ago, and a third are more supportive of school and daycare immunization requirements, a new poll has found. The shift in views occurred over the same time period that multiple outbreaks of measles and whooping cough made headlines nationwide.

In May, parents were surveyed by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health regarding how their views on vaccinations changed between 2014 and 2015, during which two dozen measles outbreaks were reported in the U.S., including a multi-state outbreak traced to Disneyland.

Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., director of the National Poll on Children’s Health, said:

“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.”

Two out of five parents, or 40 percent, think 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, 15 percent say the risk is lower.

The majority of parents polled believed vaccines have the same benefits as a year ago, and think the safety of vaccines has stayed the same. Less favorable views on vaccines were expressed by a minority of parents, with 7 percent perceiving less safety, 5 percent perceiving fewer benefits and 6 percent saying they were less supportive of school and daycare entry requirements that the previous year.

Whooping cough and measles resurgences over the last few years has set off a national discussion over vaccinations, and garnered ongoing media coverage.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill June 30 imposing one of the nation’s strictest vaccination laws following the outbreak linked to Disneyland in December 2014 that sickened more than 100 people. A spike in vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks has also been seen across the country, from New York to Michigan to Washington State.

  • Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  • In 2013, there were 145 700 measles deaths globally – about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour.
  • Measles vaccination resulted in a 75% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide.*

This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by GfK Custom Research (GfK), for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies.

The survey was administered in May 2015 to a randomly selected, stratified group of parents age 18 and older with at least one child age 0-17 (n=1,416) from GfK’s web-enabled KnowledgePanel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 55% among parent panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ± 2 to 3 percentage points.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Safer, with more benefits: Parents’ vaccines views shifting

*Measles data from World Health Organization Measles Fact sheet N°286