You can’t poll a scientific fact. The speed of light is the speed of light (186,282.4 miles per second) whether 90% of people believe it or 25% believe it.
The same is true for the safety and efficacy of vaccines. They’re extraordinarily effective and extraordinarily safe. But in this case, popular opinion makes a difference–potentially a life-and-death one. In nearly all cases, when parents don’t vaccinate their children, they put entire communities at risk.
So it’s the best possible news that the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s recent poll of 1,400-plus parents found that national views on vaccines are changing fast–for the better. Compared with their mind-set a year ago, 25% of parents thought vaccines were more safe (vs. 7% for less), and 35% were more supportive of vaccine requirements (vs. 6% for less).
That shift confirms what health-policy experts have been saying for years: once parents see the real consequences of vaccine denialism, like the measles outbreak at Disneyland, they will come rushing back for protection. No wonder Jenny McCarthy, formerly the earth mother of the antivaccine movement, has finally gone silent.
None of this means the vaccine fight is over. But it does prove that the antivaxxer community is steadily growing smaller and weaker. Science, which has never sought to be a popularity contest, is winning this one all the same.
Kluger is an editor at large for TIME
This appears in the July 27, 2015 issue of TIME.
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