This Type of Person Is More Likely to Have Anti-vax Tendencies

People suspicious of government health bodies are less likely to get vaccinated the further they live from the site of a measles outbreak, research has revealed.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, took its data from 1,006 people across the U.S. who filled out an online survey in 2017. Questions covered general demographic information, as well as their political beliefs and thoughts on vaccinations.

Participants were asked to rate how likely they would be to get a measles vaccine if there was an immediate risk of being infected; and if there was an outbreak of the disease in their community. They were also asked to consider whether they trusted government medical experts, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on health-related matters. The researchers used the ZIP codes provided by the participants to work out how close they were to recent real-life measles outbreaks.

The study comes as health officials work to tackle measles outbreaks in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. But as more parents refuse to have their children vaccinated, 1,215 cases have been identified so far this year according to the CDC.

The authors of the study said the jab may be a victim of its own success, as people are less likely to be faced with the horrors of the disease first hand, and may decide vaccination is unnecessary.

No one factor leads a person to have anti-vax tendencies, the researchers argued. Everything from the media, a person's peer group, fears about how many jabs their child might receive, and skepticism towards its benefits and science as a whole can converge to influence their opinion.

Overall, the data revealed that an individual's proximity to a recent outbreak didn't affect how they think about vaccines. However, participants who lived far from outbreaks and were distrustful of governmental medical organizations were less likely to think of vaccines favorably, compared with those with low trust but who lived nearby.

Those who trust bodies such as the CDC were found to be more likely to regard vaccines for measles as positive. In contrast, those who do not are more likely to be skeptical of immunization.

"This implies that citizens who are skeptical of the CDC and similar institutions base their vaccination decision-making to some degree on whether or not a given disease occurs in close vicinity to their community," the authors wrote.

baby, vaccination, doctor, child, patient, jab, shot
A stock image of a doctor vaccinating a baby. Researchers have tried to understand why some people opt out of vaccine programs, amid an ongoing measles outbreak in the U.S. Getty

Older people were also less likely to support vaccines compared with younger respondents. Those with higher levels of education were more likely to view them favorably, as were parents and people who follow the news closely.

Florian Justwan, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the of the University of Idaho, commented in a statement: "In this paper, we explore whether people's vaccination attitudes with regards to measles are shaped by how far away they live from a recent outbreak. We find that this is the case—but only for individuals who also distrust government medical experts. Put differently: citizens who are skeptical of the CDC and similar institutions base their vaccination decision-making to some degree on whether or not a given disease occurs in close vicinity to their community."

This Type of Person Is More Likely to Have Anti-vax Tendencies | Health