Anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may have 'detrimental consequences' for children's health

February 25, 2014

A belief in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may have significant and detrimental consequences for children's health, new research from the University of Kent has shown.

Researchers Daniel Jolley and Dr Karen Douglas, of the University's School of Psychology, surveyed 89 parents about their views on anti-vaccine and then asked them to indicate their to have a fictional child vaccinated. It was found that stronger belief in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories was associated with lower intention to vaccinate.

In a second study, 188 participants were exposed to information concerning anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. It was found that reading this material reduced their intention to have a fictional child vaccinated, relative to participants who were given refuting information or those in a control condition.

Daniel Jolley said: 'This research is timely in the face of declining and recent outbreaks of vaccinated-against diseases in the UK, such as measles. Our studies demonstrate that anti-vaccine conspiracy theories may present a barrier to vaccine uptake, which may potentially have significant and detrimental consequences for children's health.'

Dr Douglas added: 'It is easy to treat belief in conspiracy theories lightly, but our studies show that wariness about conspiracy theories may be warranted. Ongoing investigations are needed to further identify the social consequences of conspiracism and to identify potential ways to combat the effects of an ever-increasing culture of conspiracism.'

Explore further: Believing the impossible and conspiracy theories

More information: PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089177.

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1 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2014
I have two very close friends both of which have a child that was vaccinated at 2 years old and mentally got "stuck" right there. The children are both in the 30's now and are still at the 2 year old mental capacity level. Hard to say there was "no link" to the vaccinations when both were affected significantly right after a vaccination. Its very hard to support vaccinations after what they experienced.
5 / 5 (4) Feb 26, 2014
KelDude, tragic though your friends' experiences have been, it is just this sort of anecdotal 'evidence' that fuels activists against vaccination, and makes some parents hesitate. Numerous peer-reviewed studies and a number of metanalyses have looked for and failed to establish a causal relationship between vaccination and brain injury/damage. There are a swag of possible side-effects from vaccinations (and pretty much anything else we put into our bodies), and in rare instances they can be profoundly damaging side-effects (e.g. untreated anaphlaxis in a person with previously unknown albumen allergy). However, the benefits of vaccines - both for an individual and also across a population - vastly outweigh the risks. How many parents refuse to have their child use motorised transport? Look at risks; taking kids in the car puts them at a far higher chance of being injured or killed than any vaccine does. If anti-vaxers drive kids in a car they are flakey about real risk assessment.

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