Measles Outbreak Swayed Some Parents on Vaccines?
Moms and dads who were well-informed on Disneyland cases were more confident about shots in survey
By Amy Norton
MONDAY, Feb. 8, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The measles outbreak that first began in California's Disneyland last year may have changed some parents' minds about childhood vaccinations, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that parents with "high awareness" of the outbreak were more likely to voice confidence in vaccines, compared to parents who were surveyed about their vaccination views shortly before the outbreak.
They also gave more support to state laws mandating childhood vaccinations, according to findings published Feb. 8 in the journal Health Affairs.
Those shifts came only among parents who felt well-informed about the measles outbreak -- which eventually spread from California to other U.S. states, Canada and Mexico, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But only one-quarter of parents in the survey were that well-informed. In fact, only around half were aware that the outbreak occurred, researchers found.
To Dr. Aaron Glatt, an infectious disease specialist and spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the findings suggest that media coverage of disease outbreaks helps, but isn't enough.
"There could be a greater effort to reach young parents through social media, for instance," said Glatt, who wasn't involved in the study.
But ideally, he added, education about vaccines should begin much earlier, and not happen via media alone.
"What are we doing in high schools to educate kids about vaccines?" Glatt said. "What are we doing in basic science classes to educate them about infectious diseases?"
U.S. health officials recommend that infants and young children be vaccinated against more than one dozen diseases -- including measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio and tetanus.
But in recent years, some parents have been skipping or delaying their children's immunizations, likely over safety worries, according to background information in the study.
Much of that concern dates back to a 1998 published study that reported a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. The study was later retracted by the journal because it was based on fraudulent data, and Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who led the study, lost his medical license.