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Most Americans Support Vaccinating Children for Measles

Most Americans continue to believe that the benefits of the measles vaccine eclipse any potential risks, according to a survey released Tuesday.

(CN) – Most Americans continue to believe that the benefits of the measles vaccine eclipse any potential risks, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The survey from Pew Research Center asked Americans to rate their feelings on the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine for the first time since 2016, and found an overwhelming majority of Americans continue to believe in the value of the preventative vaccines. Nearly 9 out of 10 Americans say that the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh its risks; only 1 in 10 Americans say the opposite.

These numbers are identical to figures reported in 2016 by Pew Research Center, suggesting that overall public sentiment on the value of vaccinations has changed little over the last four years.

One area that has seen some change in the last few years, however, is the number of Americans who say that they consider the preventive health benefits to be “very high.” The survey reports that 56% of Americans give vaccines this “very high” health benefits rating, a rise of 11% when compared to the 45% of Americans who said the same in 2016.

Over two-thirds of Americans (69%) believe that the risk of negative side effects or consequences from the MMR vaccine are either low or very low.

A breakdown of the demographics shows that even though most Americans may have a favorable outlook on the MMR vaccine, some groups that have stronger reservations than others.

While white Americans are overwhelming supportive of the vaccine, with 92% saying the pros of the MMR vaccine outweigh its risks and 61% saying the vaccine has very high health benefits, Hispanic and black Americans are slightly less enthusiastic. Among Hispanic Americans, 78% say the MMR vaccine is more beneficial than it is risky and 48% believe the vaccine contains very high preventive health benefits. These numbers are even lower among black Americans, with 74% saying the vaccine is beneficial and just 36% believing the vaccine is highly beneficial.

The survey found only small changes in attitudes towards the MMR vaccine among generational divides. Around 9 in 10 baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials say the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh its risks, while most in each group believes the vaccine contains very high preventative health benefits.

The survey also found few differences in the attitudes of people with and without minor children, though data suggest parents of a minor child are slightly less inclined to voice their support for vaccination. While 89% of people without children say the MMR vaccine is more beneficial than risky and 58% believe the vaccine has very high health benefits, 83% of parents believe in the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks and 51% believe it has very high health benefits.

Education also influences beliefs on the MMR vaccination. The survey found positive feelings about the vaccine drops among groups with less education: Most postgraduates and college graduates believing the vaccine has very high health benefits, 74% and 66% respectively, while those with only some college (58%) or only a high school diploma or less (44%) give the MMR vaccine a very high benefit rating.

The same trend was found when examining economic status, with upper income families voicing stronger support for the MMR vaccine than lower income families.

The survey found that despite some small variations between demographics, most Americans also believe that vaccination should be required for healthy children before they enter public school. Just over 80% believe that such vaccination should be required, while only 16% say parents have a right to choose if their child is vaccinated, even if the choice creates health risks for others.

White mainline Protestants as well as atheists and agnostics were found to be generally more supportive of requiring vaccination for kids entering public school, while black Americans, black Protestants and white evangelical Protestants are among the groups that showed slightly more support for letting parents decide.

Party politics also plays a role in the debate, according to the survey. Only 12% of Democrats and those who lean Democrat support letting parents decide on whether to vaccinate their children; 20% of Republicans and those lean Republican voiced the same sentiment.

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