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Vaccine Risk Perceptions and Ad Hoc Risk Communication: An Empirical Assessment | Full Text Reports…

Vaccine Risk Perceptions and Ad Hoc Risk Communication: An Empirical Assessment 

From the Social Science Research Network

Vaccine Risk Perceptions and Ad Hoc Risk Communication: An Empirical Assessment by Dan M. Kahan
Yale University – Law School; Harvard University – Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics
January 27, 2014

CCP Risk Perception Studies Report No. 17

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Abstract: 

This Report presents empirical evidence relevant to assessing the claim — reported widely in the media and other sources — that the public is growing increasingly anxious about the safety of childhood vaccinations.

Based on survey and experimental methods (N = 2,316), the Report presents two principal findings:
first, that vaccine risks are neither a matter of concern for the vast majority of the public nor an issue of contention among recognizable demographic, political, or cultural subgroups;

and second, that ad hoc forms of risk communication that assert there is mounting resistance to childhood immunizations themselves pose a risk of creating misimpressions and arousing sensibilities that could culturally polarize the public and diminish motivation to cooperate with universal vaccination programs.

Based on these findings the Report recommends that government agencies, public health professionals, and other constituents of the public health establishment

       (1) promote the use of valid and appropriately focused empirical methods for investigating vaccine-risk perceptions and formulating responsive risk communication strategies;
       (2) discourage ad hoc risk communication based on impressionistic or psychometrically invalid alternatives to these methods;
       (3) publicize the persistently high rates of childhood vaccination and high levels of public support for universal immunization in the U.S.;
       and (4) correct ad hoc communicators who misrepresent U.S. vaccination coverage and its relationship to the incidence of childhood diseases.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 82
The report may be downloaded for free at the above URL

 

Some excerpts from the report

A. Findings    

1. There is deep and widespread public consensus, even among groups strongly divided on other issues such as climate change and evolution, that childhood vaccinations make an essential contribution to public health. …

2. In contrast to other disputed science issues, public opinion on the safety and efficacy of childhood vaccines is not meaningfully affected by differences in either science comprehension or religiosity. …

3. The public’s perception of the risks and benefits of vaccines bears the signature of a gen- eralized affective evaluation, which is positive in a very high proportion of the population. …

4. Among the manifestations of the public’s positive orientation toward childhood vaccines is the perception that vaccine benefits predominate over vaccine risks and a high degree of confi- dence in the judgment of public health officials and experts. …

…..

B. Normative and prescriptive conclusions

1. Risk communicators—including journalists, advocates, and public health professionals— should refrain from conveying the false impression that a substantial proportion of parents or of the public generally doubts vaccine safety.

2. Risk communicators should avoid resort to the factually unsupportable, polemical trope that links vaccine risk concerns to climate-change skepticism and to disbelief in evolution as evi- dence of growing societal distrust in science.

….

Remember, correlation does not equal causation!
And the selection of variables (as gun ownership) may be questioned by some…
Still, an interesting graph

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February 1, 2014 - Posted by | Public Health | , , , , ,

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