The 2014-15 U.S. measles outbreak and parents’ vaccination beliefs, confidence, and intentions

Risk Analysis

Abstract: While it seems intuitive that highly visible vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks should impact perceptions of disease risk and facilitate vaccination, few empirical studies exist to confirm or dispel these beliefs. This study investigates the impact of the 2014-15 Disneyland measles outbreak on parents’ vaccination attitudes and future vaccination intentions. The analysis relies on a pair of public opinion surveys of American parents with at least one child under the age of six (N = 1000 across each survey). Controlling for basic demographics, we found higher levels of reported confidence in the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccinations in our follow-up data collection. However, this confidence was also accompanied by elevated levels of concern toward childhood vaccines among American parents. We then examined how different sub-groups in the population scored on these measures before and after the outbreak. We found that parents with high levels of interest in the topic of vaccines and a child who is not fully up-to-date with the recommended vaccination schedule reported more supportive attitudes toward vaccines. However, future intentions to follow the recommended vaccination schedule were not positively impacted by the outbreak. Possible explanations for these results and implications for vaccination outreach are discussed.

Michael Cacciatore  Glen Nowak  Nathaniel J. Evans