Vaccines have taken center stage in the United States this year — and the more headlines they make, the more parents support them, says a national poll.
The National Poll on Children's Health, released by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, asked parents across the United States how their views of vaccinations have changed from 2014 to 2015. The results were dramatic: A solid 25 percent of parents now believe vaccines are safer than they believed at this time last year.
Taking a step beyond "safe" or harmless, 34 percent of parents also believe that vaccines have more benefits than they previously thought. And as more and more parents favor vaccines, they also favor enforcement. Case in point: 35 percent of parents now report a "higher support" for vaccine requirements at daycares and schools.
The cause for such a drastic shift in public opinion? A slew of recent disease outbreaks that hit too close to home for many parents, and the high-profile news coverage that went along with it, says the director of the poll, Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP. The exposure (literally) to diseases we haven't seen in a while, like the recent measles outbreak in Disneyland that affected over 100 people, has made the threat seem more real. The poll reports that two in five parents now believe the risk of measles for children is higher than what it was one year ago.
"Media coverage [...] 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," Davis says.
With anti-vaxxers in the minority (only 7 percent of parents saw vaccines as "less safe" this year) and the recent crackdowns on vaccine regulations at the state level, it looks like a serious shift is happening. But the real proof, says Davis, will come when — or if — more parents start to vaccinate their kids.