Grady faculty researchers study attitudes from measles outbreak at Disneyland

Three Grady College professors including Michael Cacciatore, assistant professor of public relations; Glen Nowak, director of the Center for Health and Risk Communications; and Nathaniel Evans, assistant professor of advertising, have had their research published in the February 2016 issue of “Health Affairs.” The research focused on attitudes as the result of the measles outbreak at Disneyland in late 2014 into early 2015 and found that the result was an increase in both parental confidence in vaccines and support for mandates.

Cacciatore and his coauthors found that parents who had high awareness of the 2014–15 measles outbreak linked to Disneyland in California showed more support for vaccine mandates. Using national surveys of parents with young children, they looked at parents’ awareness of measles cases during the weeks immediately prior to and following the outbreak. Nearly half of those surveyed reported no knowledge of the outbreak.

“The pessimistic view is that not enough people encountered news of the outbreak—an event that demonstrated the importance of vaccines,” Cacciatore said. “However, this is the reality of the new media environment. We cannot expect even major news stories to be viewed by everyone.”

The research also examined parents’ confidence in—and intention of—vaccinating their children and how awareness of the measles outbreak affected both.

Parents were classified as having “no awareness,” “low awareness,” or “high awareness” of the outbreak. Those who were most aware had more confidence in immunization and showed more support for vaccination mandates. In addition, 76.2 percent planned to have their children receive all recommended future vaccines, compared with 64.9 percent of the parents who had no awareness of the outbreak.

“The findings concerning future intentions can be read both positively and negatively,” Cacciatore continued. “That the unaware respondents reported a decrease in future vaccination intentions is alarming and suggests growing skepticism toward childhood vaccines. But, awareness of the outbreak was tied to slight improvements in future vaccination intentions. The outbreak did convince some of the value of vaccines.”

The authors concluded that while highly visible outbreaks can positively affect awareness, educational efforts about the safety and value of vaccination must continue.

“There was also evidence that the outbreak had some negative impacts on parents’ confidence in vaccines,” Cacciatore concluded. “Those who most closely followed news of the outbreak were more likely to report that vaccines might not actually prevent the disease. These concerns were largely driven by a small group of parents who were not adhering to the recommended childhood vaccination schedule.”

More details can be found on the Health Affairs website.

Date: February 8, 2016
Author:  Sarah Freeman,
Contact:  Michael Cacciatore,