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Herd immunity towards measles, one of the 20 most lethal diseases in human history, has been recently challenged on a global scale. Despite a missing causal relationship, vaccine fear has triggered a global anti vaccine movement. We investigated i) the extent of the vaccination-autism false belief in a selected Italian population from two geographical areas with and without an ongoing epidemics for a potentially vaccination-preventable infectious disease (Neisseria meningitidis, groups C and B); ii) the corresponding information source; and iii) the belief in a possible global conspiracy. Four different population sub-categories (I-general population; II-parents of autistic children; III-paramedics; IV-physicians, biologists and pharmacists; n=424) were administered anonymous questionnaires. A total of 30.1% of the general population and the 54.5% of autism parents participants believed in a vaccine-autism relationship (P<0.0001). The web was the major information source for the general population (35.3%). A total of 41.6% of the general population believes in a cover up of potential conflicts of interests by the Institutions. The belief in the autism-vaccination link was also positively related to the parenthood of an autistic child (OR:5.78, 95%CI: 2.36 to 14.12). We conclude that, against scientific evidence, information source and emotional involvement are major influencers of the misperception in the vaccine-autism paradigm, potentially fuelling the resurgence of vaccinepreventable diseases with major public health consequences.
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