More educated parents
less likely to vaccinate, which contradicts the misconceptions
of many health professionals who profess that parents don't
vaccinate because they are under-educated, poor or misinformed.
One publication of medical research
linking the MMR vaccine to autism in The
Lancet in February 1998 sparked a decade-long controversy
about the triple jab. Following the initial publication, the uptake
rate of the MMR vaccine dropped from 92% in 1997/98 to 80% in
A report examines how the response to the
MMR controversy varied
between parents with different levels of education.
It revealed that:
highly educated parents were up to 8% more likely to take up
the MMR vaccine than parents with lower education.
By 2002, this
gap had not only closed; it had actually been reversed, with
highly educated parents being 2-3% less likely to accept the
Most of the
relative decline in the MMR uptake by highly educated
parents occurred soon after the controversy broke when the
media coverage was still relatively low.
increased media attention in 2001 and 2002, there were no
discernible differences in trends across educational groups.
also appears to have had effects on the uptake of other
childhood vaccines: after 1998, highly educated parents also
reduced their relative uptake of other non-controversial
The relative decline in
uptake by highly educated parents also potentially has wider
individuals with more education have better health. This is possibly
because they are better informed about how to achieve better health
outcomes. The finding that highly educated parents were the first to
react to the information that the MMR had potential side effects is
consistent with this hypothesis.
More encouraging for anti-vaccine advocates is the finding that
highly educated parents also reduced their uptake of other
non-controversial childhood vaccines, a good sign that most of the
hidden toxins in vaccines are slowly being discovered by parents and
the public in general.
Another finding published in the journal
PLoS Medicine, showed that
parents with more education were less likely to let their daughters
It also adds to a
growing body of evidence that suggests vaccination efforts are being
rightfully eroded not by people who are under-educated, but by
upper-middle class folks with degrees.
"People are slowly
empowering themselves by cross referencing reputable information
in the alternative media and questioning the frequent
pseudoscience of public health officials, academics or doctors
which make up the bulk of vaccination misinformation" said
Naturopath, Dr. Dave Mihalovic.
is a Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in vaccine research, cancer
prevention and a natural approach to treatment.
"They're used to
making choices in their jobs and in their life, one. And two,
they make those choices based on information.
information that one gets here probably is primarily through
places like the Internet, which is a source of both good and bad
information about vaccines," vaccine expert Dr.
Paul Offit said when asked to
comment on the study.
The study comes on the
tail of another published Tuesday which showed that there has been a
sharp increase in the percentage of U.S. parents who are refusing to
vaccinate their children or delaying vaccination against the advice
of the medical community.
That study, presented at an international conference in Vancouver,
found 39 per cent of parents refused or delayed vaccinations for
their children in 2008, up from 22 per cent in 2003.
Offit, who is chief of infectious diseases at the Children's
Hospital of Philadelphia, was not involved in either study.
The HPV study was conducted primarily by researchers at the British
Columbia Centre for Disease Control and the University of British
The group surveyed parents of Grade 6 girls who had been eligible to
get HPV or human papillomavirus vaccine through a free, school-based
program in B.C. in the 2008-09 school year.
Lead author Dr. Gina Ogilvie said lots of studies had
explored whether parents intended to let their daughters get
vaccinated, but the group wanted to follow up to see what drove
parents' decisions to grant or decline permission for their
daughters to get the shot when it was available.
About half of the 4,000-plus randomly selected households agreed to
take part. Just over 65 per cent of the daughters in those
households had received the vaccine; 35 per cent of the parents had
Parents were asked to describe the primary reason behind their
decision and asked for secondary reasons as well.
Nearly half (47.9 per cent) of those who let their daughters get HPV
shots said they did so because they had confidence in the
effectiveness of the vaccine. Advice from a doctor and concern for
the health of the daughter also played into yes decisions.
Among the parents who said no, concern about vaccine safety was
listed as the major reason for the decision (29.2 per cent). A
substantial portion - 15.6 per cent - felt their daughters were too
young to get the vaccine and listed that as their major reason.
When the researchers compared the families that said yes and those
that said no, interesting differences came to light.
Girls from two-parent households were less likely to have been given
permission to get the shot. And parents with more education were
more likely to have said no.
Ogilvie called it "the main surprise" of the study.
"This is a flip from
our traditional understanding," she said.
A 2004 study by
researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control showed
children ho hadn't received any shots at all,
"tended to be white,
to have a mother who was married and had a college degree, to
live in a household with an annual income exceeding $75,000 and
to have parents who expressed concerns regarding the safety of
vaccines and indicated that medical doctors have little
influence over vaccination decisions for their children," said
the study, published in the journal Pediatrics.
Offit said the trend is
indeed a shift.
"The surprising part
is that someone who would be better educated would be less
likely to get the vaccine," he said.
Another study in the
journal The American Journal of Public Health, which surveyed 11,860
families, found that mothers who had not finished high school were
16% more likely to have completed the whole vaccination schedule for
Lower education levels and socio-economic status was associated with
higher completion rates for vaccination.
Rates of compliance were also higher in Hispanic and black low
"It's a an excellent
example of how more education and awareness translates to better
health," said Dr. Mihalovic.
Dr. Kronenfeld, a
professor of sociology in the School of Social and Family Dynamics
at Arizona State University, said.
'“There is a
controversy among more educated mothers about the safety of
certain kinds of immunization. That may be part of what is going
on here, but we don’t know for sure.”
Vaccination rates for
children insured by commercial plans dropped almost four percentage
points between 2008 and 2009, even though the rate of children on
Medicaid getting vaccinated is rising.
"Rates had been
gradually improving in the commercial plans. This was the first
time we'd seen a drop - and it was a pretty big drop," said
Sarah Thomas, vice president of public policy and communication
for the National Committee for Quality Assurance, which recently
released its annual State of Health Care Quality report.
rates last year were still mostly higher among children in private
health plans rather than Medicaid, researchers and other experts
suspect that a counterintuitive trend in American demographics is at
Parents in a
relatively high socio-economic bracket - with more education and
relatively high incomes - forgoing vaccines because of fears
about their safety, with poor individuals taking good advantage
of their access to free or extremely low-cost care to have their
really explore the reasons [for the trend], but one leading
hypothesis is that parents have decided not to get their
children vaccinated because of concerns about the potential
for side effects and even autism," said Thomas.
The authors found a drop
in several routine childhood vaccinations.
measles, mumps and
rubella (MMR) vaccines decreased from 93.5 percent in 2008 to 90.6
percent in 2009
diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough rates fell
from 87.2 percent to 85.4 percent in that one-year period
proportion of kids getting vaccinated for chickenpox fell from 92
percent in 2008 to 90.6 percent in 2009
(Source: US News Health, 3rd
Parents are gradually waking up to
the dangers of vaccines.
who have a university education and a well paid job, are in a better
position to research vaccinations and know their rights.
Education is power and
they and those most invested in health and research are most likely
to avoid vaccinations at all costs, a trend that is welcome and
timely for future generations.