The MMR vaccine is a childhood immunization vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella. Despite debate about the safety of childhood vaccines among some
groups in the public, an overwhelming majority of Americans (82%)
support requiring children attending public school to be vaccinated for MMR, suggested a new Pew Research Center
Some 73% of Americans see high preventive health benefits from
the MMR vaccine and 66% believe there is a low risk of side effects from
the vaccine. Overall, 88% believe that the benefits of the MMR
inoculation outweigh the risks.
‘An overwhelming majority of Americans (82%) support requiring children attending public school to be vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).’
Yet, several groups express more concern about the safety of the MMR
vaccine, including parents of young children. About half (52%) of
parents with children ages four or younger say the risk of side effects
from the MMR vaccine is low, while 43% say the risk of side effects is
medium or high.
By comparison, 70% of those with no minor-age children
say the risk of side effects is low, while 29% say the risk is medium or
high. As far as potential benefits, 60% of parents with children four or
younger say the preventive health benefits of the MMR vaccine are high,
compared with 75% of parents with school-age children (ages five-17) and
76% of people with no children younger than 18.
"In addition to parents of young children, this analysis finds that
adults under age 30, blacks and people with lower knowledge about
science topics see a higher risk of side effects or lower preventive
health benefits from this vaccine," said lead author and Associate
Director of Research Cary Funk. "Public health benefits from vaccines
hinge on very high levels of immunization in the population, so it's
important to understand which groups hold reservations about the MMR
vaccine," Funk said.
The survey finds that public views of medical scientists and their
research related to childhood vaccines are broadly positive, though
mixed, regardless of parent status, race, ethnicity and experience using
alternative medicine. The data:
- 73% of U.S. adults believe that medical scientists should have a major role in policy decisions related to childhood vaccines.
- 55% say they trust information from medical scientists a
lot to give a full and accurate picture of the health effects of
vaccines, 35% trust medical scientists some and just 9% have no or not
too much trust in medical scientists. People are less trusting of other
groups about this issue - just 13% trust information from pharmaceutical
industry leaders about the health effects of the MMR vaccines a lot.
- 52% of Americans say scientists' research on childhood
vaccines is influenced by the best available scientific evidence most of
the time, and 55% say such research is influenced by scientists'
concern for the best interests of children's health most of the time.
- 47% say medical scientists understand the health effects
of the MMR vaccine very well, 43% say they understand this fairly well
and just 10% say medical scientists do not understand this at all or not
- 55% believe that "almost all" medical scientists are in
agreement that the MMR vaccine is safe for healthy children, while 28%
say that more than half of medical scientists agree about this.
"This survey looks in-depth at people's views about vaccines to
explore which groups have more reservations about the MMR vaccine and
whether or not those views are connected with people's trust in medical
science," said Funk. "One of the striking findings in this study is that
parents of young children express more concern about the safety of the
MMR vaccine. Yet, like other Americans, they hold broadly positive views
about medical scientists and their research on childhood vaccines."
The data show there are some generational differences in these
views, with adults younger than 30 less likely to see medical scientists
in a positive light. People who are generally less knowledgeable about
science are much less trusting of medical scientists and see higher risk
and lower benefits from the MMR vaccine.
There are generational differences in views of the MMR vaccine and trust in medical scientists.
- Seniors, ages 65 and older, support a school-based
requirement for the MMR vaccine rather than leaving the decision up to
parents by a margin of 90% to 8%. By comparison, 77% of adults ages 18
to 29 support a school-based requirement, while 21% of this group says
parents should be able to decide not to have their children vaccinated
even if that may create health risks for others.
- Younger adults, ages 18 to 29, are a bit less likely
than older age groups to say medical scientists understand the health
effects of childhood vaccines very well and to perceive strong consensus
among medical scientists that the MMR vaccine is safe. Some 47% of
adults ages 18 to 29 think the best evidence influences research
findings on childhood vaccines most of the time, compared with 60% of
those ages 65 and older.
Those with high science knowledge and higher incomes are especially
likely to see high preventive health benefits of the MMR vaccine and to
support school-based MMR vaccine requirements.
- 91% of those with high science knowledge (based on a
nine-item index across a range of science topics) rate the preventive
health benefits of the MMR vaccine as high. By contrast, 55% of those
with low science knowledge say the health benefits are high.
- People with high science knowledge are more likely than
those low in science knowledge to trust medical scientists and their
research. About three-fourths (73%) of those high in science knowledge
trust information from medical scientists about the effects of the MMR
vaccine a lot, compared with 40% of those low in science knowledge; 72%
of those with high science knowledge think the research findings on
vaccines are influenced by the best available evidence most of the time,
compared with 34% of those with low science knowledge on a nine-item
- People with higher family incomes ($75,000 or more) are
more inclined than those with lower family incomes to see high health
benefits and low risk of side effects from the MMR vaccine. Those with
higher family incomes are especially strong in their support for a
requirement that all children be vaccinated against MMR in order to
attend public schools.
Groups with more concern about the MMR vaccine include those who
have used alternative medicine and blacks. But political groups hold
similar views on childhood vaccine issues.
- The 8% of Americans who report never using
over-the-counter medications for cold or flu symptoms and the 20% of
Americans who have used alternative medicine instead of conventional
treatment are more concerned about the risk of side effects from the MMR
vaccine. These groups are comparatively more likely to think that
parents should be able to decide whether or not to vaccinate their
children even if that decision means increased health risk for others.
- Blacks (56%) are less inclined than whites (79%) to see
the preventive health benefits of the MMR vaccine as high. More blacks
(44%) than whites (30%) see the risk of side effects from the MMR
vaccine as medium or high.
- Republicans (including Republican-leaning independents)
hold roughly the same views as Democrats (including those leaning
Democratic) about the health benefits and risk of side effects of the
MMR vaccine. However, political conservatives are slightly more likely
than either moderates or liberals to say that parents should be able to
decide not to vaccinate their children - though seven-in-ten or more of
all three ideology groups support requiring the MMR vaccine for all
schoolchildren because of the potential health risk to others.
A 61% majority of Americans give the media positive marks for their
coverage of issues related to the MMR vaccine.
- Half of Americans say they follow news about childhood vaccines very (13%) or somewhat (37%) closely.
Most Americans see reports of conflicting health studies as part of the march of research progress.
- Fully 74% of adults say conflicting news reports
about disease prevention are understandable because "new research is
constantly improving our understanding," while 23% of adults say such
research "cannot really be trusted because so many studies conflict with
Most Americans who have visited a health care provider in the past
year say they felt listened to and that the provider "really cared about
their health and well-being."
- 84% of those who have been to a health care provider
in the past year for an ailment felt their provider "really cared about
their health and well-being" and 80% say they got all the information
they needed for further treatment and at-home care.
- Only 23% of this group reports feeling rushed by their
health care provider and just 15% felt confused about the instructions
they received for further treatment or at-home care.
- 30% of Americans say they "just ask a doctor for advice"
when it comes to making decisions about treatment for a serious health
problem, while 68% say they do their own research, either to check for
other treatment options (21%), to understand potential side effects for a
recommended treatment (9%) or simply to learn more about the
recommended treatment (36%).
These are among the key findings from the new report, which is based
on a nationally representative survey conducted May 10-June 6, 2016,
among 1,549 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 U.S.
states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error is
plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.