Reputation survey: MMR panic subsides

Despite huge press coverage on the link between the MMR jab and autism, the majority of parents would not trust media reports for advice, new research shows.

Reputation survey: MMR panic subsides
Reputation survey: MMR panic subsides

Dr Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who first suggested a link between the MMR jab and autism, was struck off the general medical register last week for misconduct.

According to PRWeek/OnePoll's survey of 3,000 members of the public, just four per cent of respondents said they trusted Wakefield to give them the best advice on a potential link between the jab and autism.

Although Wakefield was struck off for the way he carried out his research, and not for the findings of the research itself, 36 per cent of respondents said his removal invalidated his research, compared to 27 per cent of respondents who said it did not.

When it comes to health advice, 60 per cent of respondents said their doctor would be their first port of call, while 18 per cent cited family and friends.

Just one per cent said they would turn to mass media reports. And while 56 per cent said they paid attention to health reports in the media, 62 per cent said they did not feel the media reported on health research responsibly.

Despite ongoing stories about parents shunning MMR inoculations for their children because of fears about autism due to Wakefield's now disproved research, 66 per cent of respondents said they would allow, or had allowed, their children to receive the jab.

And 44 per cent said they did not believe there was a link between the jab and autism.

As far as Wakefield is concerned, 39 per cent of respondents said they agreed with the decision to strike him off the medical register - while 18 per cent disagreed. The remainder had no opinion.

HOW I SEE IT

Ed Purkis, Head of media, Virgo Health

Although the new research signals a substantial shift in public perceptions for the better, it also reminds healthcare communicators of the ever-present potential for the public to be influenced, no matter how robust or not the evidence is. As a result of consumer media coverage of Wakefield's research linking the MMR vaccine to autism, the medical media correctly predicted a drop in vaccination rates.

But the new survey results tell us the balance has been redressed, with 66 per cent of people saying they would allow their children to receive the MMR jab and almost half (44 per cent) believing there is no link between MMR and autism.

Most interestingly are the high rates of people highlighting they have 'no opinion'

as to whether the decision was right or wrong. This tells us the jury is out and opinion could go either way in similar cases, making our role to educate the public on research and key healthcare issues just as important as ever.

DO YOU BELIEVE THERE IS A LINK BETWEEN THE MMR JAB AND AUTISM?

NO OPINION - 41%

YES - 15%

NO - 44%

WOULD/HAVE YOU ALLOWED YOUR CHILDREN TO RECEIVE THE MMR JAB?

NO - 14%

NO OPINION - 20%

YES - 66%

Media reports

62% of respondents said they do not feel the mass media reports health research responsibly

Paying attention

56% said they pay attention to health reports in the mass media

Making decisions

55% said they would not base a decision on medical care upon a report in the mass media

Trusting sources

51% said they would trust their GPs the most for advice on the potential link between the MMR jab and autism

Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

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