US survey reveals growing distrust of vaccines, embrace of untruths

News brief


Anti-vaccine protest
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survey of US adults demonstrates eroding confidence in vaccines and more willingness to accept misinformation about vaccines and COVID-19 over the last 2 years, according to results released today by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) at the University of Pennsylvania.

The center fielded its 13th nationally representative public health survey to more than 1,500 adults from October 5 to 12, 2023, finding that the proportion of respondents who believe in the safety of vaccines fell from 77% in April 2021 to 71% in fall 2023. Over the same period, the percentage of respondents who believe approved vaccines are unsafe jumped from 9% to 16%.

Although the number of people who accept this misinformation is relatively small, "there are warning signs in these data that we ignore at our peril," said APPC Director Kathleen Hall Jamieson, PhD. "Growing numbers now distrust health-protecting, life-saving vaccines."

News organizations, public health officials, scientists, and fact-checkers (including APPC’s project have attempted to disprove misinformation about vaccination and COVID-19, yet 26% of respondents said they still believe that the antiparasitic drug ivermectin is effective against COVID-19, up from 10% in September 2021.

There are warning signs in these data that we ignore at our peril.

Other key highlights

  • In total, only 63% believe it's safer to get the COVID-19 vaccine than COVID-19 itself, down from 75% in April 2021.
  • Sixteen percent think that administration of higher numbers of vaccines are responsible for rising autism cases, up from 10% in April 2021.
  • Two-thirds (67%) say they already have returned to their normal, prepandemic life; 75% say they never or rarely wear a face covering.
  • More than 1 in 10 (12%) think vaccines in general contain toxic ingredients such as antifreeze, a significant rise from 8% in April 2021.
  • Nine percent of people incorrectly believe that flu shots increase the risk of contracting COVID-19, up from 6% in January 2023.
  • Of all respondents, 12% said mRNA COVID-19 vaccines cause cancer, up from 9% in January 2023.
  • Just half of those surveyed agreed that the seasonal flu shot cannot cause the flu.


Michigan reports first CWD detection in Ogemaw County

News brief

The Michigan Department of Natural Resource (DNR) yesterday reported the first detection of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a deer in Ogemaw County, which is in the north central part of the lower peninsula.

doe autumn
Jen Goellnitz/Flickr cc

The deer was a 4-year-old doe that was skinny, drooled, and showed no fear of people. The University of Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison confirmed the findings. CWD has now been found in 13 of Michigan’s 83 counties.

Chad Stewart, MS, the DNR’s deer and elk specialist, said intensive surveillance had been done. "In light of this new detection, we are offering additional opportunities for those interested in getting their deer tested for CWD in Ogemaw County," he said. Officials said a drop box for CWD testing will be available in the area starting November 3.

Rotational approach to testing

Stewart said CWD isn’t common in Michigan deer, and the hunting community continues to play a key role in helping with testing efforts. The DNR said it regularly tests around areas where CWD is detected as a way to detect the disease early. In 2021, it started a rotational approach, selecting a group of counties for testing each year with a longer-term goal of testing all Michigan counties.

The focus this year is counties in the northwestern lower peninsula and a few counties where more herd information is needed.

Michigan’s first CWD detection occurred in 2015, and, since then, more than 137,000 wild deer have been tested. The deer in Ogemaw County is the 251st to test positive.

CWD is a prion disease that causes neurodegeneration, similar to "mad cow disease," in several cervid species, or members of the deer family. The disease hasn’t been shown to jump to people, but health officials urge people to avoid eating infected animals and to use precautions, such as wearing rubber gloves and minimizing contact with brain and spinal tissues, when processing deer.

Simulation study shows best air exchange for cruise ships

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A simulation looking at coughing and droplet spread in cruise ship passenger cabins meant for two or more passengers shows that higher ventilation does not necessarily lead to the best viral protection. The study is published in Physics of Fluids.

Cruise ships became one of the first sites of COVID-19 outbreaks in the spring of 2020, with hundreds of passengers infected and then quarantined on the ships for days. In the new study, researchers simulated droplets produced by a cough in a typical cabin, and used computational fluid dynamics to test 1.5 to 15 air changes per hour (ACH).

Current recommendations for cruise ships focus on high ACH, 6 or more an hour, but the simulations showed that such frequent changes were energy inefficient, were uncomfortable for passengers because they generated air drafts, and spread droplets farther and faster during simulated coughs.

Passenger comfort considered

The researchers found an ACH of 3 when a cabin was occupied was the most effective and efficient. When a cabin was empty between occupants, an increase to 15 ACH for at least 12 minutes allowed for the most sanitary conditions.

In this way, contaminated droplets would spread at a limited distance from the infected person while the air would be completely refreshed for the next occupants.

"In this way, contaminated droplets would spread at a limited distance from the infected person while the air would be completely refreshed for the next occupants," the authors said. "The same minimum time of 12 min can also be proposed as a clearance wait time for similar-sized rooms with a minimum of 15 ACH."

In a press release on the study, author Dimitris Drikakis, PhD, said, "Complete evaporation of the saliva droplets may not necessarily mean all viruses or bacteria become instantly inactive. Therefore, we should aim at minimum droplet spreading inside the cabin and different ventilation strategies for occupied cabins."

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