Perspective from Paul A. Offit, MD
January 16, 2020
4 min read

Faith in vaccines falls 10 percentage points in US poll

Perspective from Paul A. Offit, MD
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Sharon Nachman, MD
Sharon Nachman

The percentage of Americans who feel strongly that parents should get their children vaccinated has dropped by 10 percentage points since 2001, according to a Gallup poll. The poll showed that only 45% of Americans believe vaccines do not cause autism in children.

A rise in anti-vaccine sentiment has contributed to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases — including measles — in the United States and elsewhere, endangering public health. WHO has listed vaccine hesitancy and the erosion of public trust in medicine, including vaccines, as top global health challenges each of the last 2 years.

“I think one of our biggest problems is that most families don't have a tight connection to their child's pediatrician,” Sharon Nachman, MD, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, told Healio. “Far too often when a child is sick, which usually happens in the evenings or the weekends, instead of going back to their physician, they go to a walk-in center. That dilutes the connectedness between a family and their physician or medical care providers.”

In a survey of 1,025 randomly sampled adults, 84% of respondents said they believed that it is extremely or very important that parents vaccinate their children, down from 94% in 2001. According to the poll, the only subgroup surveyed that maintained its level of vaccine support since 2001 was highly educated Americans, defined by the poll as individuals with postgraduate degrees. Perceptions of vaccine importance dropped by at least 5 percentage points across all other surveyed education subgroups, which included college graduates, individuals with some college education and individuals who had a high school degree or less.

Additionally, 86% believed vaccines are not more dangerous than the diseases they prevent, whereas 89% said they are aware of the advantages and disadvantages of vaccines.

“It would help if we make parents understand that all vaccines are not the same,” Nachman said. “When someone is anti-vaccine, we need to say, ‘Well what would each of those vaccines that we would like to give your child prevent?' Diseases are not all the same.”

Recent research has shown that an increase in vaccine-preventable diseases is connected with an uptick in bills restricting vaccine exemption, and vaccine mandates have increased coverage for measles and pertussis throughout Europe.

“There's a small percentage of people that, no matter how you frame the question, will still not want their child vaccinated,” Nachman said. “But the vast majority are sitting on the fence, and we need to understand why.”– by Eamon Dreisbach


Delameter PL, et al. Ann Intern Med. 2019;doi:doi:10.7326/M19-1933.

Gallup. Fewer in U.S. continue to see vaccines as important. Accessed January 16, 2020.

Goldstein ND, et al. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.4365.

Pingali SC, et al. JAMA. 2019;doi:10.1001/jama.2019/7924.

Vaz OM, et al. Pediatrics. 2020;doi:10.1542/peds.2019-0620.

For more information:

Sharon Nachman, MD:

Stony Brook Children's Hospital:

Disclosure: Nachman reports no relevant financial disclosures.