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American Academy Report Calls for More Research on Parental Decision-Making on Childhood Vaccines


Press Release

Cambridge, MA | April 24, 2014 – The drumbeat of headlines about the latest measles, mumps, or pertussis (whooping cough) outbreaks offers evidence of a frightening reality: growing numbers of parents are either delaying or selectively administering immunizations—or choosing not to vaccinate their children at all. A new report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences makes clear that reversing this trend requires dedicated research on how vaccine decisions are made and the best ways to communicate factual information to vaccine-hesitant parents.

The report, Public Trust in Vaccines: Defining a Research Agenda, was announced today in Science magazine by study chairs Barry Bloom (Harvard School of Public Health), Edgar Marcuse (University of Washington), and Seth Mnookin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). After addressing the dangers of not vaccinating children, it explains why it is crucial to understand the reasons that parents are ignoring the scientific evidence on the value of immunization and emphasizes the importance of research into the parent-provider relationship.

“If not curtailed, this trend will lead to even more frequent outbreaks of dangerous childhood diseases in the near future,” said Bloom. “Physicians, nurses, and other health professionals need a toolkit to engage the growing ranks of ‘vaccine-hesitant’ parents, and this toolkit can only be developed with robust scientific research.”

Public Trust in Vaccines identifies priorities for future research that would elucidate how health care providers can best communicate with undecided parents about the individual and community benefits of childhood vaccinations. Key questions include how and when attitudes and beliefs about vaccines are formed, how people make decisions about immunization, how best to present information about vaccines to hesitant parents, and how to identify communities at risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.

Public Trust in Vaccines: Defining a Research Agenda is available for download at


About the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences ( is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on the humanities, arts, and higher education; science and technology policy; global security and energy; and American institutions and the public good. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members from around the world, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.


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