Messages highlighting the safety of vaccines may not be effective for swaying attitudes in skeptical adults, but stressing that vaccines can prevent devastating illnesses like measles could increase support for vaccination instead.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles conducted a study of 315 adults regarding beliefs towards vaccines in which one-third of adults had very favorable attitudes toward vaccines and two-thirds expressed some degree of skepticism. Of those who were skeptical, 10% had very negative attitudes on vaccination. Participants were divided into three groups in which they read one of the following materials:

  • Group one: information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stating that children should be vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella and that the vaccine for those diseases is safe and effective. It also said that although some parents are concerned about a possible link between the vaccine and autism, research has shown that there is no link.
  • Group two: information describing the dangers of measles, mumps, and rubella and explaining how a vaccine can prevent these diseases. Included were photographs of children with these diseases and a statement from a mother whose 10-month-old son suffered a life-threatening bout of measles.
  • Group three: an unrelated statement about feeding birds (control).

RELATED: More Parents Seeing Benefits, Safety of Vaccines

The materials presented to group one and three did not change overall attitudes towards vaccines, but among the members who were skeptical or very opposed to vaccines in group two, the information presented to group substantially increased support for vaccination. Lead author Keith Holyoak, PhD, added that a non-confrontational approach emphasizing the preventative aspects of vaccination is more effective than trying to counter negative arguments against vaccines, particularly debates over possible side effects.

For more information visit