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Poll: Some Americans unsure of vaccine safety
September 30th, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich., and WASHINGTON – A Thomson Reuters-NPR Health Poll found that more than a quarter of Americans are concerned about the value and safety of vaccines.
What's more, over 20% of the survey's more than 3,000 respondents said they believe vaccines can cause autism.
Thomson Reuters and NPR conduct the monthly poll to gauge attitudes and opinions on a range of health issues. In the latest survey, results of which were released Friday, 26.6% of those surveyed expressed concern over the safety of vaccines. Households with children under age 18 demonstrated the greatest level of concern (30.8%), while the lowest level of concern (18.5%) was found in respondents 65 years old and up.
Among those with concerns, 47.3% attributed their fear of vaccines to future long-term impact on health, and 46% said they were worried about side effects.
Nearly one in five indicated that they have questioned or declined a vaccine for themselves or their children, with a higher rate among those under 35 (28.1%) and a lower rate among those 65 and older (12.7%).
When asked about specific safety concerns, 21.4% of respondents said they believe vaccines can cause autism, 9.2% said they think vaccines can be linked to cancer, 6.9% believe they play a role in diabetes, and 5.9% cited a connection between vaccinations and heart disease.
Overall, 24% of respondents said their opinions of immunizations have changed in the past five years. Of those, 59% said their views on vaccines have become less favorable.
"Ironically, these survey results are a testament to the effectiveness of vaccines. Older people remember what illnesses like polio did to cripple and kill patients, but the younger generation has never seen someone with polio," Raymond Fabius, M.D., chief medical officer at the health care business of Thomson Reuters, said in a statement. "Because of the elimination of diseases through immunization, there is a lack of understanding that the benefit of vaccines greatly outweighs the minimal risks of side effects, both short- and long-term."