Health

Support for Vaccines Continues Downward Trend in US, Poll Shows

A new Gallup survey shows that support for vaccination in the United States is declining, particularly among parents of young children.

The survey, conducted in December 2019, shows that 84% of Americans feel it’s extremely or very important that parents vaccinate their children. That matches Gallup’s prior reading in 2015, but is down 10% from 2001, when 94% of Americans felt this way.

“Widespread public support for childhood vaccines creates a wall preventing contagious diseases like measles and polio from spreading in the US, but a breach in that wall appeared in 2015 and it has not been repaired,” Gallup said in a news release.

Among parents of children younger than 18 years old, 77% feel vaccination is important in 2019, down from 92% in 2001.

The decline in Americans’ belief in the importance of vaccinating children between 2001 and 2015 occurred among almost all subgroups of the public.

Highly educated Americans with postgraduate degrees is the only group that has maintained its 2001 level of support for vaccines; 90% of this subgroup continues to believe vaccination is important, essentially unchanged from the 92% in 2015 and 2001. Perceptions of the importance of vaccination declined by at least 5 percentage points among all other education subgroups, Gallup reported.

Public Awareness Campaigns Working?

Most Americans say they are aware of the advantages and disadvantages of vaccines. In the latest survey, nearly 9 in 10 (89%) say they have heard “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about the advantages of vaccinations, up from 83% in 2015 and 73% in 2001.

More than three quarters (79%) say they have heard a great deal or a fair amount about the possible disadvantages of vaccines — up modestly from 73% in 2015 but a substantial increase from 39% in 2001.

“Pro-vaccine public awareness campaigns appear to be working to the extent that more Americans — now a majority for the first time — report having heard a lot about the medical advantages of vaccines for children,” Gallup reports.

“However, more have also heard about the disadvantages. While they are not as pervasive and are being exposed as untrue, these counterarguments are still getting through, perhaps explaining why public support for vaccines remains lower than at the start of this century,” they point out.

Uncertainty on Vaccine-Autism Link Persists

Although many Americans who oppose vaccinations argue that they are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent, the vast majority of Americans (86%) continue to disagree. This is unchanged from the 87% who felt that vaccines were less dangerous in 2015 and only modestly lower than the 90% in 2001.

Currently, 11% of US adults think vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases they prevent.

Although the vast majority of Americans see vaccines as less dangerous than the diseases they prevent, only 62% feel the federal government should make all parents get their children vaccinated. In a 1991 Princeton survey, 81% felt the government should require vaccination.

Despite the well-publicized and debunked claim that vaccines cause autism, 10% of US adults still believe that vaccines cause autism in children, marking a modest increase from 6% in 2015. Nearly half (45%) do not think vaccines cause autism, up modestly from 41% who said the same almost 5 years ago, whereas 46% still aren’t sure. In 2001, 94% of Gallup survey respondents were unsure whether vaccines cause autism.

Americans with more formal education were more apt to say vaccines do not cause autism. The figure is 73% among those with postgraduate education, falling to 61% among those with a college degree only, 42% of those with some college, and 28% of those with no college experience.

Lesser-educated Americans were much more likely to have no opinion than to say they believe vaccines do cause autism. The percentage making the causal connection tops out at 12% among Americans with no college education vs 5% of postgraduates.

There was also a partisan split in opinions, with 55% of Democrats saying vaccines do not cause autism, compared with 37% of Republicans, according to Gallup.

The results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1025 adults, aged 18 and older, from all 50 US states and the District of Columbia, with the margin of sampling error of ±4 percentage points.

More information on the survey is available online.

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