Vaccine-Preventable Disease Outbreaks Shifting Parents' Vaccination Views

Recent measles and whooping cough outbreaks could be shifting parents' vaccine views in a positive direction.

Recent measles and whooping cough outbreaks could be shifting parents’ vaccine views in a positive direction.

“Media coverage of outbreaks 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,” said Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, director of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, in a press release. “The impact of such shifts in perception will ultimately be measured by whether more parents vaccinate their kids.”

It has been a record year for measles since the disease was declared eliminated in 2000, according to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Two-dozen measles outbreaks were reported across the country between 2014 and 2015, including a serious case stemming from Disneyland in Anaheim, California, that infected 100 individuals.

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a law prohibiting parents from using personal and religious beliefs for their kids to skip school vaccinations. Now, all children in the state must be vaccinated against whooping cough, measles, and other diseases. Unvaccinated children will have to be homeschooled, attend a multifamily private homeschool, or use public school independent study administered by local education agencies.

Results of the National Poll on Children’s Health indicated that many parents are showing greater support for stricter vaccine requirements. More than one-third of the 1416 parents polled said they are more in favor of daycare and school vaccine requirements than they were 1 year ago.

About the same percentage perceived vaccines as having more benefit than they did a year ago, while one-quarter believed vaccines are safer than they were last year.

Asked about their concerns surrounding measles and whooping cough infections compared to last year, 45% of parents said the risk for measles is about the same, 40% said the risk is higher, and 15% said it is lower.

Similar results were seen for whooping cough: 49% said the risk is the same, 37% said it is higher, and 15% said it is lower.

“These poll results may indicate that outbreaks of diseases such as whooping cough and measles, and information from various sources about related issues such as vaccine benefits and safety, are influencing the opinions of one-quarter to one-third of parents across the United States toward stronger belief in the positive aspects of vaccines,” the researchers concluded. “Comparatively small proportions of parents say that their perceptions are shifting in the opposite direction.”

In other immunization news, Pennsylvania recently adopted a new law that allows pharmacists to provide flu shots to children as young as 9. Pennsylvania joins 36 other states permitting pharmacists to immunize children.