Americans’ confidence in the value of vaccination has fallen since 2001, according to a Gallup study released last week. The study, undertaken to gauge public opinion following weeks of heightened public controversy over the measles outbreak at Disneyworld, found that only 54% of the public now considers it “extremely important” for parents to get their children vaccinated, down from 64% in 2001. Another 30% considered it “very important “ to be vaccinated, both in the current poll and in the one taken in 2001, also a time of controversy due to the presence of mercury in childhood vaccines.
49% of Americans today have heard “a great deal” about the advantages of childhood vaccines, compared to 37% in 2001. But the biggest change has occurred among Americans who have heard a great deal about the disadvantages of vaccines. Where only 15% in 2001 heard “a great deal” about disadvantages, the number has doubled to 30% today. In a further indication that the public is tuning in to vaccine problems, just 24% heard a “fair amount” about the disadvantages in 2001 compared to 43% today. Combining the totals, 73% today have heard a great deal or a fair amount of vaccine problems, compared to 39% in 2001.
That almost three-quarters of adults have become alert to concerns over vaccine problems points to the increasing importance of social media as sources of information, since the major media outlets are enforcing a near-total blackout on information skeptical of vaccines.
Almost one in 10 Americans (9%) today believe that the vaccine is more dangerous than the diseases they are designed to prevent. The Gallup Poll also shows a great deal of unease over the role of vaccines in causing autism. While only 6% are sure vaccines cause autism, an absolute majority — 52% — believes it possible. Only 41% of Americans accept government assurances from agencies like CDC that vaccines do not cause autism.
Males are likelier than females to believe that vaccines might or do cause autism — 63% to 54% — and the figure is highest among Millennials, aged 18 to 29. Among this child-bearing group, 69 don’t buy the assurances from public health authorities that “vaccines don’t cause autism.” But across all age groups, more people were skeptical of the public health authorities’ autism claims than were accepting.
The Gallup survey was conducted Feb 28-March 1, 2015 with a random sample of adults 18 years of age and older. The margin or error is 4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.