Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Vaccines: What do we think?

2015 measles cases in the U.S., January 1 to February 20, 2015. Map of the U.S. indicates in shades of light to dark blue the number of cases. Twelve states (Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah) and the District of Columbia have 1 to 4 cases. Three states (Arizona, Nevada and Washington) have 5 to 9 cases. One state (Illinois) has 10 to 19 cases and one state (California) has 20 or more cases. These are provisional data reported to CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.CNN published a poll on Monday of this week that contains some interesting statistics. A story announcing the poll began
A new CNN/ORC poll shows nearly 8 of 10 Americans believe parents should be required to vaccinate their healthy children against preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella and polio. If the children are not vaccinated, most agree the child should not be allowed to attend public school or day care . . . 
The basic methodology and results are described here. Overall, 78% of respondents believed parents should be required to vaccinate children against preventable diseases if they are healthy. The age stratified results depict an interesting trend: Older Americans are most supportive of required vaccinations (84% of those 50+ versus 72% of those under 50) and those at the younger end of the spectrum -- and in particular, those of common childbearing ages -- are much less supportive (only 67% of those 18-34 years of age).

Pondering these statistics might lead one to muse that it would have been useful if the poll, rather than asking if parents should be required to vaccinate, had instead asked simply if parents should vaccinate. On Tuesday another poll appeared, this time by Reuters/Ipsos, that asked just that. Information on that poll can be found here. A Reuters news story summarized this poll:
Seventy-eight percent of respondents in the online survey said all children should be vaccinated unless there is a direct health risk to them from vaccination. Only 13 percent opposed vaccinations. . . 
The story went on to note that the "numbers are absolutely overwhelming in favor of vaccinations with a consistent minority in opposition." That's good, but probably not good enough. Herd immunity likely needs to be over 90% in order to eliminate measles. If the poll was representative of the larger US population, then the 78% statistic suggests that we have some work to do.

Of course, polls are not compete studies, and it's hard to know what to make of such results. However, I don't think they're entirely reassuring.

(image source: CDC)

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