In a new study, researchers found that nearly half of adults in the U.S. (45%) may have experienced something has caused them to doubt vaccine safety.
The research was done by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association.
The new online survey examined more than 2,000 U.S. adults.
They found that although 55% of Americans don’t doubt vaccine safety, 45% noted at least one source that caused doubts about the safety of vaccination.
The top three sources causing doubts were online articles (16%), past secrets/wrongdoing by the pharmaceutical industry (16%) and information from medical experts (12%).
The survey also asked people to choose a statement that best showed their feelings about vaccine safety and efficacy.
Although the vast majority (82%) chose in favor of vaccines, 8% selected responses expressing serious doubt. An additional 9% said they were unsure.
The team suggests that the spread of negative attitudes towards vaccines may be deeply rooted in human psychology and amplified by social media.
From an evolutionary perspective, humans are primed to pay attention to threats or negative information.
it makes sense that people hold onto fears that vaccines are harmful, especially when they believe their children are in danger.
Many people worry about possible vaccine side effects than the actual diseases vaccines prevent.
But doctors warn that the doubts may cause big damage to public health if the doubts result in more unvaccinated people.
This is because some diseases, like measles, require as much as 95% of the population to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.
Herd immunity is essential to maintain because some people cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions including allergies, illness, or a weakened immune system.
Keeping the rest of the population vaccinated protects those who are vulnerable.
The team says that people’s beliefs are hard to change especially when they’re based in fear. But doctors and researchers can’t afford to give in to those fears. They need to insist on evidence-based medicine.
The lead author of the study is perinatal psychiatrist Rachel Shmuts, DO.
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