June 7, 2023

In The News: Trust in Childhood Vaccines Holds Steady, Despite Skepticism of COVID-19 Vaccines, Survey Finds

CNN reports on a Pew Research Center survey that found Americans continue to have broadly favorable views of routine childhood vaccines despite the tumult surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. Only about six in 10 said COVID-19 vaccines’ benefits outweighed the risks whereas the views for the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine benefits outweighing risks were nearly nine in 10. The findings come from a survey conducted in mid-March of 11,000 adults.

According to the survey data, those who did not get vaccinated against COVID-19 held less positive views on the MMR vaccine. Those individuals also likely avoided getting a flu shot. However, even among this group, about three-quarters said the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the risks, and about 70% of the group who were parents said their child had gotten the MMR vaccine.

The article goes on to argue there are distinctions between the MMR and COVID-19 vaccines affecting perceptions. The MMR vaccines have been around for decades, and side effects regarded as nonfactors. COVID-19 vaccines, on the other hand, are new, their acceptance seen through a political lens and side effects well-covered in news coverage and anecdotally.

Despite the support stated in the survey, political views on vaccines have bled into the acceptance of vaccines such as MMR for children to attend school and it shows. A CDC report from earlier this year found MMR vaccinated children dropped for a second year in a row, and now is at its lowest in a decade. Over the past four years, adults supporting school vaccine requirements has dropped from 82% to 70%. The shift predominately reflects a change in views amongst conservatives.  Four in 10 of Republicans now say parents should decide whether their child is vaccinated prior to entering school.

The article concludes with an appeal to meet parents where they are to influence vaccine acceptance in the face of questions over their necessity. Many vaccine-preventable diseases have been greatly reduced in the West thanks to the work of infectious diseases experts. They are now tasked with explaining the biology of the immune system, why hesitations about overwhelming the immune system don’t need to be a concern and why it is important to have their children vaccinated.

PIDS president Buddy Creech is quoted in the article. He said, “We’ve seen [hesitancy] with other vaccines because they’re new technology. Sometimes we see it because parents underestimate the amount of disease that’s really out there that they should be worried about. And the third way is when our messaging about the vaccine is confusing. The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t really work. We’ve really got to listen to what the individual concerns are and be able to speak to that based on the data that we have and the experience we had with those vaccines.”

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