After 2019’s measles outbreak, the news about the American public’s perception of vaccines is hardly surprising.
A recent Gallup poll found that roughly 84 percent of Americans believe it’s either extremely or very important that parents vaccinate their children. This rate has stayed the same for the past five years, but it’s down from 94 percent in 2001.
Researchers gathered the data via phone interviews with a random sample of 1,025 people in all 50 states between Dec. 2 and 15, 2019.
What Did the Research Find?
Other notable findings from the poll address vaccines and autism, government-mandated immunization, knowledge of vaccine safety and more:
- All subgroups of Americans included in the poll (ex. gender, age) reduced their support of vaccines by at least five points since 2001, except for…
- Americans with postgraduate degrees, whose support of vaccines has stayed at roughly 90 to 92 percent since 2001.
- Americans are reporting higher levels of knowledge about vaccines than in 2001. Some 89 percent say they have heard “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about the advantages of vaccinations, up from 83 percent in 2015 and 73 percent in 2001.
- Similarly, 79 percent say they have heard “a great deal” or “fair amount” about the “disadvantages” of vaccines — compared to 73 percent in 2015 and 39 percent in 2001.
- Roughly 11 percent of respondents said they believe vaccines to be more dangerous than the diseases they prevent, while 86 percent feel the opposite.
- Only 62 percent of respondents said the government should require vaccination, down from 81 percent in a 1991 Princeton poll.
- Ten percent of participants said they believe vaccines cause autism, 45 percent disagree, and 46 percent say they’re not sure.
- The more educated respondents were, the more likely they were to say vaccines do NOT cause autism.
How Can Providers Promote the Safety of Vaccines?
In the midst of frustration and busy schedules, many nurses and advanced practice providers forget to practice empathy when talking to anti-vax parents. That’s why their advice and information so often falls on deaf ears, Blima Marcus, DNP, RN, ANP-BC, OCN, previously told Florence Health. Dr. Marcus is an Orthodox Jew and became deeply involved in vaccine advocacy when the measles epidemic hit her community.
Marcus offers other important tips for discussing vaccine safety:
Listen to your patient’s stories and be empathetic.
“Validate [the patient’s] experience — if someone tells you they heard about a child who developed epilepsy after a vaccine, don’t say, ‘That never happened,’” Dr. Marcus explains. “You can say, ‘That sounds scary,’ and then ask about the timing of the shot.” After they respond, you can introduce relevant data about vaccines triggering bad reactions.
If you can, call upon your own experience as a parent.
Marcus continues the conversation by talking about the research she’s done on her own because she has two children herself. In the past, she’s told patients, “I see why you feel that way, but I looked at the research for my own kids, and I found out there are 600,000 studies that show vaccines are safe. That made me feel reassured.”
Counteract concerns with easy-to-understand facts.
You might want to prepare simple data points about some of the most controversial vaccines, including MMR, DTaP and Hepatitis B. But before you go on a tirade of listing stats, know that “not all people want more data,” Dr. Marcus stresses. “Some just want to be heard.”
Understand that these conversations take time.
Dr. Marcus says research indicates that a successful conversation with a vaccine-hesitant parent usually takes about 20 minutes. So tell patients you’re happy to continue the conversation another time or refer them to Dr. Marcus’ organizations email, email@example.com.
4 Tips for Talking to Patients About Vaccine Hesitancy, Florence Health.