Results of a nationally representative survey suggest that people who distrust government medical experts — like those from the CDC — and live farther from recent measles outbreaks have more negative attitudes toward measles vaccination than people with low trust in government experts who live close to outbreaks.
“It is particularly important for physicians to understand these findings because according to some of our previous research findings, physicians are a very trustworthy source of vaccine-related information, regardless of people’s political orientation,” Juliet Carlisle, PhD, associate professor in the department of political science at the University of Utah, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “In that role, they can be potentially important for individual-level vaccination behavior. Physicians should take a central role in communicating vaccine information to citizens in order to increase vaccination behavior.”
Vaccine hesitancy and nonmedical vaccine exemptions are contributing to current measles outbreaks in the United States and worldwide.
Carlisle and colleagues collected more than 1,000 online survey responses about their attitude toward measles vaccination, proximity to recent measles outbreak and trust in government medical experts, and demographic data. They conducted the survey between January and February 2017.
Survey responses revealed that proximity to a recent measles outbreak did not independently affect vaccination attitudes, Carlisle and colleagues wrote.
The researchers noted that trust in government medical experts is “strongly and positively” associated with vaccination attitudes. Specifically, those who “strongly trust” (B = 1.34; standard error = 0.197; P = .01) and “somewhat trust” (B = 0.53; standard error = 0.144; P = .01) government medical organizations like the CDC were more likely to report favorable views about measles vaccination. Respondents who reported distrust of government medical experts were more skeptical about vaccination (B = –0.966; standard error = 0.309; P = .01).
Carlisle and colleagues then examined the relationship between proximity to outbreak and trust in government medical experts. They reported that proximity to recent measles outbreaks affects people with low levels of trust in government medical experts differently than those who do or do not trust these officials (B = –0.003; standard error = 0.001; P = .01).
The researchers explained that proximity to an outbreak had no effect on vaccination attitudes for those with medium or high levels of confidence, but those with little confidence in government medical experts and who lived farther from a recent measles outbreak had more negative attitudes about vaccination compared with those who lived closer to an affected area.
“The key is to build trust and provide information to citizens,” Carlisle said. “So, it is important for health care professionals to build close relationships with patients and the broader community.” – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.