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Poll: Parents Consider Vaccines Safe, Beneficial

Infant being vaccinated

(Public Domain Images)

6 July 2015. A nationwide survey of parents in the U.S. shows the vast majority of parents believe vaccines for children are as safe and beneficial as a year ago, with sizable numbers — from a quarter to a third — saying vaccines’ safety and benefits are increasing. The results were published today by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, part of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor.

Despite the record of vaccines preventing millions of occurrences of diseases like polio and measles, increasing numbers of parents in the U.S. in recent years began opting out of having their children vaccinated. Despite voluminous evidence to the contrary, concerns among some parents persist over the safety of vaccines, particularly the link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism.

A measles outbreak in the spring of 2015, traced to a single case at Disneyland in California, alerted health authorities and the public to pitfalls of of opting out from childhood vaccinations. Many of the 147 people getting measles, including 131 in California, were not vaccinated against the disease. By the end of June 2015, the California legislature passed, and governor signed, a bill removing most of the allowable exemptions, including religious and philosophical reasons, for opting out.

The poll, conducted in May 2015 with a nationwide panel, shows 2 in 3 parents in the U.S. (68%) believe vaccines are as safe as a year ago, with another quarter (25%) saying vaccines are getting safer. Only 7 percent believed vaccines are less safe. Six in 10 parents (61%) feel vaccines provide as many benefits as 1 year ago, while 1 in 3 parents indicate vaccines provide more benefits than a year ago. Only 5 percent say vaccines are less beneficial.

The poll shows as well a sizable concern about the risk of measles and whooping cough, two diseases once believed to be under control because of vaccines. Some 2 in 5 parents (40%) say the risk of measles is increasing in the U.S., while only a few more (45%) say the risk is about the same. Less than 2 in 10 (15%) believe the measles risk is lower.  Concerns about whooping cough among parents show a similar pattern, with 37 percent believing the risk is higher, about half (49%) saying the risk is about the same as a year ago, and 15 percent indicating the risk is lower.

In addition, the poll asked parents about their opinions of requiring children in school or day care to be vaccinated. About 1 in 3 parents (35%) say they are more supportive of these requirements than a year ago, while 6 percent are less supportive, and 6 in 10 (59%) say their level of support is unchanged.

The polling company GfK Custom Research conducted the survey in May 2015 among a sample of parents with at least 1 child age 17 or younger. The sample of 1,416 participants was drawn from GfK’s KnowledgePanel, a collection of participants recruited over the Web that the company says is representative of the U.S. population. GfK says the survey had a completion rate of 55 percent, with a margin of error on responses of 2 to 3 percent.

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