FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

Study finds cultural worldview impacts approach to vaccinating children

New research suggests that despite efforts by health officials, a person's cultural worldview helps to explain much of the opposition to vaccination in the U.S., according to a study published in Risk Analysis.

Recently, scientists expressed concern about the resurgence of multiple preventable contagious diseases in the U.S., including measles and whooping cough. There were 222 cases of measles in the U.S. in 2011 and 41,000 cases of whooping cough in 2012. In some parts of the U.S., vaccination rates are too low to protect the community as a whole, leaving newborns vulnerable to serious illnesses.

Geoboo Song, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas, and Hank Jenkins-Smith and Carol Silva with the University of Oklahoma, collaborated to survey 1,213 American adults to determine what influences perceptions of benefits and risks of vaccination. The researchers divided people into four cultural prototypes: hierarchs, egalitarians, individualists and fatalists.

The study found that hierarchists and fatalists represented the extremes of perceived risks and benefits. Hierarchists saw the greatest benefits and fewest risks to vaccination. Fatalists saw the fewest benefits compared to the risks of vaccinations. Egalitarians and individualists fell between the two groups with egalitarians perceiving a higher benefit to risk ratio for vaccination than individualists.

By understanding the cultural bases of perceptions about vaccines, health officials may be able to better communicate with different groups about vaccine risk to protect the most vulnerable members of communities.