Despite the lack of scientific evidence linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism, roughly one in four parents still believe that vaccines may put some healthy children at risk for developing an autism spectrum disorder. Yet, in spite of these concerns, the Associated Press reports, many of those parents still believe the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.According to a University of Michigan survey of more than 1,500 parents of children ages 17 and younger, the vast majority of parents believe in the overall benefit of vaccines. A study based on those survey results, to be published in April issue of the journal Pediatrics indicates that 90% of parents believe that vaccination is in their child’s best interests. This was in spite of the fact that many parents—29% of mothers and 17% of fathers included in the survey—agreed with the statement that “some vaccines cause autism in healthy children.”
Many physicians have expressed exasperation over the continued belief in a vaccine-autism link among some parents, and have even characterized parents who refuse to vaccinate their children as “selfish.” As the AP reports, a statement on vaccines distributed by a group practice in Pennsylvania emphatically states that “vaccines do not cause autism or other developmental disabilities,” and that parents whose misguided beliefs lead them to skip vaccination “are taking selfish advantage of thousands of other who do vaccinate their children.”
While frustration has driven some doctors to dismiss vaccine-wary patients—some have asked parents unwilling to vaccinate their children to find a different physician, according to the AP—many in the medical community are hopeful that research into public perceptions of vaccine risks will enable them to better educate parents. Finding effective ways to address and alleviating parents’ concerns may be ultimately be the best way to protect their children.