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Reflections on our irrational health decisions and what to do about them

Some big news today: The New York Times reports that a new poll found that a third of parents see more benefit from vaccines now than they did a year ago. The data come from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. According to the report, 35% of parents more strongly support vaccine entry requirements for daycare this year than they did last year. Some of this change in heart may have something to do with recent measles outbreaks.

If this is truly the case, then the widely touted notion that vaccine hesitancy has to do with a failure to understand the risks associated with non-vaccination due to near-eradication of some of the prevented diseases might just be true. As always though, we need to be careful when assessing these data. How the survey was conducted, what the response rate was, and even the survey questions themselves should all be evaluated to determine whether these findings are truly representative of the larger population of American parents. Could these findings be replicated in a different sample of the same population? In addition, of the 59% of parents whose positions have not changed, we should get a better understanding of how many of them support and how many do not support vaccination to gain a better understanding of the “base rate” with which we are dealing here. In the meantime, things seem to be moving in the right direction and we should continue to wait eagerly for more data on this extremely important topic.

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