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- Three out of four Americans believe children should be vaccinated against measles even if their parents object, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
- The news comes amid what public health experts call a “completely avoidable” outbreak of 764 measles cases recorded in the United States this year – the most seen in 25 years.
- Some parents have refused to vaccinate their children due to concerns about the shot that are not supported by science.
- The scientific consensus shows that vaccines are safe, but contracting measles is dangerous and can even be deadly.
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Three out of four Americans believe children should be vaccinated against measles even if their parents object, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found, showing little sympathy for the anti-vaccination movement that US officials blame for the ongoing outbreak.
Some 764 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the United States so far this year, the most seen in 25 years, in an outbreak that public health officials have called “completely avoidable” and largely linked to misinformation campaigns against the vaccines.
A small but vocal community of parents refuse to vaccinate their children, citing concerns about the injections that are not supported by science. But the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed US adults by a wide majority share the scientific consensus that the highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease is dangerous, while vaccines are safe.
Eighty-five percent of the 2,008 adults polled April 30 through May 2 said that all children should be required to get vaccinated unless there was a medical reason not to, such as an allergy or compromised immune system. Some 77% said children should be immunized even if their parents object to the vaccinations.
Though roughly one-quarter of adults believe that parents should be able to decide whether or not to vaccinate their children, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Wednesday, that number has dropped significantly even in just the last four years.
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In 2015, 32% of adults surveyed in a national CBS News poll said parents should be able to choose whether their children receive the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, and just 66% said the vaccine should be mandatory.
‘It’s a law to wear your seatbelt, it should be a law to get vaccinated’
In order to achieve herd immunity that protects those unable to get the measles vaccine, such as infants and people with compromised immune systems, 90% to 95% of the population needs to be vaccinated.
“Those numbers are not really as high as they should be,” said Dr. Jennifer Lighter, an epidemiologist at NYU Langone Health hospital in New York. “It’s putting children at risk and other people at risk who are vulnerable to severe measles if you’re not vaccinating your own child.”
Less than 4% of respondents said they do not believe the vaccine is safe.
State and local officials in recent weeks have looked at new ways to fight the outbreak. In New York City, where some 423 cases have been recorded, Mayor Bill de Blasio last month issued a mandatory vaccination order for Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood and other communities hard-hit by the disease.
- Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
Lawmakers in a half-dozen states are mulling new measures that would prohibit parents from citing religious or personal beliefs to avoid vaccinating their children.
“The government’s role should definitely be to mandate the vaccine,” Lighter said. “It is a safety issue. It’s a law to wear your seatbelt, it should be a law to get vaccinated.”
Officials have also warned that certain adults living in areas hard-hit by the epidemic, which include parts of California, New Jersey and Michigan, may need another shot to ensure that they are protected from measles.
Many adults are unsure if they remain immune, given that vaccinations are typically administered early in childhood. Twenty-two percent of respondents told Reuters/Ipsos that they either are not vaccinated for the disease or don’t remember if they are.
Doctors attributed this memory failure to the fact that many people got the vaccine as young children and often do not have documentation because they received it before electronic records were kept.
“That’s one of the most crucial areas where we can intervene,” said Dr. Teresa Dean, an internist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Doctors recommend that adults who are unsure of their immunity should get tested and then get the vaccine if needed.
Both the Reuters/Ipsos and the NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls had a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 3 percentage points.
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