MMR survey reveals deep distrust of government health advice

New research into public perceptions of MMR has shown that more than a third of parents distrust government health advice but are more likely to trust the advice of their own doctor.

Research led by Dr Rachel Casiday, based in the School for Health at Durham University's Queen’s Campus, Stockton found that the public's confidence in the MMR vaccine has been shaken, with 20% of parents believing the government would not withdraw the vaccine even if it was found to be harmful.

Around 1,000 parents in the North East of England took part in the postal survey into attitudes to the controversial vaccine. The number of children in the North East having the measles, mumps and rubella jab is higher than the national average with around 85% of eligible children in the North East having had the MMR vaccine, compared to 81% nationwide and the government’s target of 95%. However more than a third of parents are not convinced that there is no link between the jab and autism.

The study found that around 7% of parents had opted for single vaccines - which meant 72 children received each jab individually. But it also revealed only 19 of those children had had all three separate injections, often due to a shortage of the mumps vaccination. More than 50% of parents whose children had had the MMR combination jab said they were not convinced about the safety of separate injections.

Dr Casiday commented: "The uptake of the MMR vaccine has not dropped as much as many feared in response to controversy, but it is still below target levels needed for herd immunity.

"In addition, the high level of concern about the safety of the vaccine expressed even by parents who had immunised their children is worrying in its implications for public confidence and trust in health care."

Reasons given for public mistrust of government health advice in pre-research interviews included the government's handling of BSE outbreaks and the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.

The study has been published in the Vaccine medical journal.

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