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Do Americans Believe Measles Misinformation?

March 26, 2024

Public health leaders have been carefully monitoring reports of measles cases in Pennsylvania and around the U.S. this year.

This month, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the latest tracking poll studying misinformation related to the measles vaccine and the government’s role moderating misleading health claims online. The CDC last week confirmed that the number of measles cases had already surpassed the 2023 total.

“Experts suggest this is largely the result of a decrease in childhood vaccinations due to missed vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 to 2022,” the report notes. “Compounded with these circumstances, views and refusal of childhood vaccines have shifted and become more partisan over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Among the key takeaways:

  • Vaccine views:  About 18 percent of U.S. adults had heard the false claim that getting the measles vaccine was more dangerous than being infected with the virus, and nearly a fifth of adults thought it was “probably” or “definitely” true.
  • Moderating health claims:  About 66 percent of adults say social media companies should restrict false health information.
  • Partisan divide:  About 82 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans reported that social media companies should take steps to restrict health misinformation (even if it limits certain freedoms).
  • Government’s role:  About 57 percent of adults say the government should require social media companies to take steps to restrict false health information. Another 42 percent believe the “freedom to publish and access health information should be protected, even if it means false information can also be published.”
  • Quotable:  “Clear, accurate messaging from trusted sources, such as pediatricians, regarding the safety of the measles vaccine may solidify the public’s—and parents’—correct inclination that the measles vaccine is not more dangerous than contracting the disease,” the report noted.

Last week, the CDC issued a health alert with recommendations for health departments and providers. Review the latest recommendations online.

The latest KFF tracker is available to review online.