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May 25, 2018

The 'startling' decline in Americans' trust in vaccines—and how providers can reverse that trend

Daily Briefing

    Many Americans say the public does not get enough information from their doctors about vaccinations—and the public's overall confidence in the U.S. vaccine system is waning, according to a survey commissioned and release this week by Research!America and the American Society of Microbiology, MedPage Today reports.

    Vaccines and beyond: Help your clinicians consistently follow care standards

    The survey was conducted by Zogby Analytics in May and includes responses from about 1,000 adults and had a margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points.

    Poll findings

    According to the survey, a majority of respondents said they feel vaccines—such as those for influenza; poliomyelitis; and measles, mumps, and rubella—are important, with 70% describing them as "very important" and 22% describing such vaccines as "somewhat important."

    However, the percentage of U.S. adults who said they felt vaccines are very important "to the health of our society" fell 10 percentage points from 80% in November 2008 to 70% in May 2018. When asked about the importance of childhood vaccines, 71% said they are "very important," down from 82% in 2008. However, the percentage of respondents who said they felt parents who do not vaccinate their children put communities at risk increased 10 percentage points between 2008 and 2018, reaching 61%.

    The survey found 77% of respondents said they were confident in the U.S. system for evaluating the safety of vaccines and recommendations for when they should be given, down eight percentage points from 2008. In addition, 67% of respondents said they were confident that the current system ensures an adequate supply of necessary vaccines to prevent shortages, down 11 percentage points from 2008.

    According to the survey, 53% of respondents said they did not receive the flu vaccine during the last flu season. Of those respondents:

    • 48% said they chose to remain unvaccinated because they did not trust the flu vaccine;
    • 40% said they did not believe it would prevent the flu; and
    • 26% said they did not believe the flu vaccine was effective.

    In addition, the survey found 70% of respondents agreed with the statement, "The federal government should do more to educate the public about global disease outbreaks and the risk to the U.S.," and 45% of respondents said the public does not get enough information from their doctors about vaccinations.

    To that point, just 21% of respondents had heard about the idea of a universal flu vaccine.

    The survey also found nearly half of respondents, 46%, said they felt that diseases affecting foreign countries will pose a threat the United States in coming years.

    The majority of respondents said it was important for the United States to fund international disease surveillance and detection programs, with 51% describing such funding as "very important" and 38% describing it as "somewhat important."

    However, more than a quarter of respondents, 26%, were "not too confident" that the U.S. government would be able to prevent a major infectious disease outbreak. Fourteen percent of respondents were "very confident," while 47% were "somewhat confident."


    Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley called the findings "startling." She said, "Perhaps we're not getting the word out effectively; perhaps not enough people are taking the time to engage with the community. It's very important to take this seriously."

    Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, offered some tips on how to effectively discuss vaccines with patients. While he acknowledged that "there is a hard-core group you'll never convince" to get vaccinated, he said, "There is also a pretty good group of people that if you just give them information and debunk false information in a collegial way, you'll win over a substantial portion of them." Fauci continued, "There are some people who don't get vaccinated for a variety of reasons; that's when you open up a dialogue and discuss with them why it is," adding, "Very often you can convince them to change their minds." One thing that will not work in those conversations, according to Fauci, is telling people their thinking is "wrong" (Frieden, MedPage Today, 5/21; Fox, NBC News, 5/21; Shelbourne, The Hill, 5/22; Research!America survey, May 2018).

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