Despite the misinformation being trumpeted by some very high-profile figures, a new report from the Pew Research Center finds that Americans remain largely in favor of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccinations for schoolchildren.
Researchers collected survey responses from 1549 American adults hailing from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The participants were diverse in age, income, education, and cultural background. Some were parents, and others were not.
Cary Funk is lead author of the report and associate director of research at Pew. She emphasized the uniquely communal nature of immunization. “Public health benefits from vaccines hinge on very high levels of immunization in the population,” she said in a statement, “so it’s important to understand which group hold reservations about the MMR vaccine.”
By and large, the survey results were quite positive, with 82 percent of Americans agreeing that children attending public school should get the MMR vaccine. Around 88 percent felt that the benefits of vaccination outweighed any potential risks, and 73 percent said that medical scientists should have a major role in any policy regarding childhood vaccines.
Once the survey respondents were broken into smaller groups, philosophical disagreements emerged. Senior citizens (age 65 and up) were 90 percent in favor of school-based requirements for vaccination. This number dropped to 77 percent for younger adults (18 to 29). Young adults were less likely to trust that scientists understand the health effects of vaccination and less likely to understand that scientists are strongly in agreement that vaccines are safe.
The divide was even more apparent between parents and non-parents. Only 52 percent of parents of young kids agreed that there is a low risk of side effects from the MMR vaccine, compared to 70 percent of respondents with no small children. Three other groups were also less likely to trust the vaccine and vaccine scientists: people under age 30, African Americans, and people with a low understanding of science.
“Like many surveys, the findings raise a number of further questions to explore,” Funk told mental_floss. “Each of the groups with comparatively more concern about the MMR vaccine may have different underlying reasons for those concerns.”
She noted that parents of young children are actively facing the question of whether or not to vaccinate their kids on the recommended schedule.
“Yet, like other Americans,” she said in the statement, “they hold broadly positive views about medical scientists and their research on childhood vaccines.”