The whooping cough and measles outbreaks made headlines this past year, underlining the importance of vaccines for the good of creating herd immunity. These events, at great cost, may have helped shift parents' attitudes about vaccines, according to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

Matthew M. Davis, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health, was excited to report on the changing opinions in favor of vaccines.

“Over the last year there have been high-profile news stories about outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough. These news reports may be influencing how parents perceive childhood vaccines across the country.”

The poll showed that one-third of parents perceived vaccines to be beneficial and one-quarter reported that they perceived them to be safer now than a year ago. Davis says for this many people to shift their views in just a year's time “is quite remarkable.”

Much of the success in this change of opinion has been the result of the media debates that have ensued after the Disneyland outbreaks where over 100 people came down with a case of the measles. Other outbreaks across New York, Washington, and Michigan have added to the body of proof of how important vaccines are to protecting the population as a whole. However, there are still some who disagree. Davis reported that 6 percent of parents said they were less supportive of the requirements for vaccines put forth by schools and daycares.

“Outbreaks of disease can safely be prevented through childhood vaccination, but there are deeply held convictions about parents’ autonomy and remaining concerns among some parents about vaccine safety.”

Seven percent of parents said they believed vaccines were less safe and 5 percent saw fewer benefits in getting their kids vaccinated. While these parents are among the minority, it's important to remember, in order for vaccines to be effective, a community needs an immunization rate of 95 percent in order for the herd to be protected from measles, and 85 percent to be protected from mumps and rubella. It doesn't take much for an entire system to come undone.

Read more at UofM Health.

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