Americans Skeptical About Vaccines Remain Small Segment of Population

Despite the measles outbreak resulting from the anti-vaccination movement in the United States, the percent of Americans who said it's "extremely important" to get children vaccinated continued to fall, according to a new Gallup poll.

Despite the measles outbreak resulting from the anti-vaccination movement in the United States, the percent of Americans who said it’s extremely important to get children vaccinated continued to fall, according to a new Gallup poll.

In 2001, 64% of Americans believed it was extremely important for parents to vaccinate their children, but that dipped to 54% in the latest poll conducted February 28 to March 1, following the measles outbreak. The percentage of Americans who say getting children vaccinated is very important remained unchanged at 30% over the last 14 years, while those who say it is not very important or not at all important increased from 1% to 4%.

“Views on vaccinating children are related to education and age; those with the highest education levels and Americans aged 30 and older are the most likely to say it is important,” Gallup found.

While Americans are significantly more likely to have heard about the advantages of vaccinating children than the disadvantages, the gap has narrowed. The percent of people who have heard about disadvantages has increased greatly since 2001: 30% now compared to 15% then have heard a great deal and 43% now versus 24% have heard a fair amount. In 2001, 28% said they had heard nothing at all about the disadvantages of vaccines, while only 9% now can say the same.

Half (52%) of Americans said they were unsure of vaccines cause autism, while 6% said they believe certain vaccines do cause autism in children and 41% disagree.

“The belief that certain vaccines cause autism in children is one of the major controversies surrounding vaccines,” Gallup explained. “This claim is based in part on a now largely discredited article published in a British medical journal in the 1990s, and public pronouncements on the subject by celebrity Jenny McCarthy. Various politicians in the years since have also created controversy with their statements on the issue.”

While there is a lot of uncertainty across demographics regarding whether or not they believe vaccines can cause autism in children, younger Americans and those without college educations are more likely to be unsure, and parents with children under the age of 18 are more likely to believe there is a link.

Respondents with a postgraduate degree most strongly believe there is no link with 75% saying vaccines do not cause autism, only 3% saying they do, and 22% admitting they were unsure.