President Donald Trump’s criticism of vaccines is at odds with the views of most Americans, who overwhelmingly support vaccination requirements for public school children, according to a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.
The survey found that 82% of Americans support requiring public school students to be vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). Most Americans’ perception of the benefits of those three vaccinations are overwhelmingly positive, with about 88% saying the purported benefits outweigh any potential risk. About 73% of Americans see high preventive health benefits, and 66% say there is a low risk of side effects, according to the survey.
Discourse on the vaccination risk goes back to 1998, when a now-retracted study published in The Lancet linked increasing rates of autism to childhood vaccines. The author of the study, Andrew Wakefield, has been banned from practicing medicine in the U.K., and universally dubbed a fraud by the medical community.
Since being elected, Trump has met both with Wakefield and Robert Kennedy Jr., a staunch vaccine skeptic the president reportedly asked to lead a commission on “vaccine safety and scientific integrity.” Trump has denied this claim and refused to acknowledge the creation of any such commission.
Trump, who has no background in science or medicine, has claimed for years that the current vaccine schedule subjects children to too much at once.
“I am totally in favor of vaccines,” Trump said during a primary debate last year. “But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time.”
His views have led to increasing unease in public health circles, with many experts concerned about anti-vaccine sentiments being raised across the U.S. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, told FiercePharma that he and others are “apprehensive” about Trump’s plans on vaccines, but that he’s waiting for more details.
The Pew survey found that public opinion on scientists and their research related to childhood vaccines is generally positive. The data indicates that 73% of adults believe scientists should have a major role in policy decisions related to vaccinations, while only about 25% say elected officials should decide.
Both Republicans and Democrats are generally in agreement that MMR vaccines should be a public school requirement; however, conservatives are slightly more likely than either moderates or liberals to say that parents should have a say about whether or not to have their children vaccinated. Still, the vast majority of Americans in each group support requiring the vaccinations to protect all public school children from preventable diseases.
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