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Benefits of Childhood Vaccines Outweigh Risks, Most Americans Say

Benefits of Childhood Vaccines Outweigh Risks, Most Americans Say
Author Information (click to view)

Pew Research Center


Pew Research Center (click to view)

Pew Research Center

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Parents of young children, however, are among several groups that see higher risk and lower benefits of the MMR vaccine.

Despite debate about the safety of childhood vaccines among some groups in the public, an overwhelming majority of Americans (82%) support requiring children attending public school to be vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Some 73% of Americans see high preventive health benefits from the MMR vaccine and 66% believe there is a low risk of side effects from the vaccine. Overall, 88% believe that the benefits of the MMR inoculation outweigh the risks.

Yet, several groups express more concern about the safety of the MMR vaccine, including parents of young children. About half (52%) of parents with children ages 4 or younger say the risk of side effects from the MMR vaccine is low, while 43% say the risk of side effects is medium or high. By comparison, 70% of those with no minor-age children say the risk of side effects is low, while 29% say the risk is medium or high. As far as potential benefits, 60% of parents with children 4 or younger say the preventive health benefits of the MMR vaccine are high, compared with 75% of parents with school-age children (ages 5-17) and 76% of people with no children younger than 18.


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The survey finds that public views of medical scientists and their research related to childhood vaccines are broadly positive, though mixed, regardless of parent status, race, ethnicity and experience using alternative medicine. The data:

  • 73% of U.S. adults believe that medical scientists should have a major role in policy decisions related to childhood vaccines.
  • 55% say they trust information from medical scientists a lot to give a full and accurate picture of the health effects of vaccines, 35% trust medical scientists some and just 9% have no or not too much trust in medical scientists. People are less trusting of other groups about this issue – just 13% trust information from pharmaceutical industry leaders about the health effects of the MMR vaccines a lot.
  • 52% of Americans say scientists’ research on childhood vaccines is influenced by the best available scientific evidence most of the time, and 55% say such research is influenced by scientists’ concern for the best interests of children’s health most of the time.
  • 47% say medical scientists understand the health effects of the MMR vaccine very well, 43% say they understand this fairly well and just 10% say medical scientists do not understand this at all or not too well.
  • 55% believe that “almost all” medical scientists are in agreement that the MMR vaccine is safe for healthy children, while 28% say that more than half of medical scientists agree about this.

Click here to read the full press release.

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