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Polls show vaccine refusers are mainstream?

Posted May 28 2010 5:16pm

This is the claim put forth in a recent “vaccine choice” rally. You’ve probably already read about the rally in Kev’s piece The American Rally for Personal Rights – bit of a damp squib . In his piece on the rally, Is the anti-vaccine movement fizzling? , Orac has videos courtesy of Bruce Critelliplus .

The rally started out with (amongst other statement) a statement from the conference organizers pointing to a survey they commissioned:

“We are mainstream America! And there’s no denying it. We have some important and special news to announce that was shared earlier this week in a press conference. Three weeks ago the center for personal rights contracted with Harris Interactive to conduct a national survey, the first of its kind…..

And here are the results:

Today, the majority of American Parents believe that they should have the rights to decide which vaccines their children should receive without regard to mandates

Chicago AntiVax Rally May 26 2010-Part 1 from Bruce Critelli on Vimeo .

If you’ve read this blog much before, you probably know I like to look at the numbers. So I checked the poll.

Here’s the first question:

All children should receive 69 doses of 16 vaccines before age 18, as recommended by the federal government.

Wow. All children? The Federal government does not recommend that all children get vaccines, in any number. The federal government acknowledges that some children are unable to be vaccinated due to medical conditions.

So, I would have disagreed with question one. Strongly. Does that mean that I agree with the center for personal choice? Hardly.

How many people did agree with question 1? 42%. Another 39% were neutral. I put it that the majority of people polled (and whoever wrote that question) do not understand the vaccine program.

Kind of makes it hard to take the rest of the poll seriously.

But, I like to look at trends. One trend I keep being told is valid is that vaccine refusers tend to be more educated and more well off financially. Basically, smart successful people tend to question vaccines, with the implication that this means the idea has merit.

The poll doesn’t bear this out.

Take question 2, the Government Mandate question quoted in the rally:

“Parents should have the right to decide which vaccines their children receive without government mandates.”

Parents with a high school education or less were in favor 51% of the time

Parents with a college education were in favor 57% of the time

Parents with grad school education? 48% of the time. Still high, but isn’t that interesting. Grad school educated parents were about 10 points less favorable to the idea than college educated parents.

How about income levels?

Parents with <$35k annual income were in favor 51% of the time

Parents with $35k-$50K annual income were in favor 58% of the time

Parents with $50k-$75K annual income were in favor 54% of the time

Parents with >$75K annual income were in favor 48% of the time. Still high, but isn’t that interesting. High income parents were about 10 points less favorable to the idea than middle class families.

The income trendwhere the high income parents were much less favorable than the middle income familieswas the case for 4 of 5 questions:

Parents should have the right to decide which vaccines their children receive without government mandates.

I am concerned about serious adverse effects of vaccines.

The government should fund an independent scientific study of fully vaccinated vs. unvaccinated individuals to assess long-term health outcomes.

I am concerned that the pharmaceutical industry has undue influence over government vaccine mandates.

Frankly, I’d probably be counted as supporting the ideas of the self-styled vaccine choice movement based on careful wording of surveys. Doesn’t mean I actually support those organizations.

As an aside, the effort to rebuild Dr. Wakefield’s image is on. It’s just really weak. Dan Olmsted blogged about it at the Age of Autism blog. It is a rather odd piece. First, Dan Olmsted, regular at the Autism One conference (this rally was basically a satellite to that conference), didn’t attend the rally. Nor did any of the principle AoA bloggers. Mr. Olmsted finishes his piece with a statement about how autism was invented in America with thimerosal….How that supposedly supports Mr. Wakefield and his MMR hypothesis, I am unable to ascertain.

Mr. Wakefield’s book came out this week. You can read a good review of it here, Andrew Wakefield Fights Back , and save yourself the time and money of buying the book. Mr. Wakefield’s supporters have targeted Amazon.com to boost the ratings of the book, pushing it to something under 20 in the new books bestsellers list. At the same time, Barns and Noble had the book at about 28,000. In other words, don’t expect it to be on any real best seller lists soon. They are just manipulating a rather useless number.

Age of Autism called for a rally to support Mr. Wakefield following his appearance on the Today Show. There is no followup, no pictures and the post calling for the rally is rather uncluttered by comments from people claiming to have attended. Not even a comment from David Kirby, a short subway ride away. I really wish I had been there with a camera to see if there was any turnout at all.

On short notice, skeptics were able to rally more people to attend the “vaccination choice” rally in Chicago .

Yes, a fair fraction of the roughly 200 people who attended the rally were there as a protest. The rally, timed to coincide with the AutismOne conference, pulled only a small fraction of the AutOne attendees.

Are these groups “mainstream”? Do they represent the real thoughts of the people? I rather think not.

There’s been a bit of a blogstorm this week on Andrew Wakefield. I’m sure he will pop up from time to time in the future, but, let’s face it: He’s old news. He’s been telling everyone who will listen that “he’s not going away”. Doesn’t mean he’s still relevant.

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