Blog | Friday, June 10, 2011

QD: News Every Day--Parents still worried about vaccines

Some parents remain unpersuaded that all childhood vaccines are safe or even necessary, a new survey published in Health Affairs shows.

Photo by James Gathany via the CDCWhile most parents vaccinate their children, they lack confidence in them, researchers pointed out. Parental education should include thorough explanations why infants should be fully immunized before age two.

Vaccination levels for most recommended vaccines were above 90% of national immunization goals in 2009, reported the CDC's National Immunization Survey. But, researchers wrote, high immunization rates aren't the same as high confidence in the vaccines.

Using data from the 2010 HealthStyles survey of 6,253 households (response rate 67%), researchers identified 376 respondents with children ages six or younger and examined parental vaccine behaviors, attitudes, concerns, and what sources of information they rely on to learn about vaccines.

Among respondents, 83% had fully vaccinated their children and 11% planned to fully vaccinate them. Another 5% intended to vaccinate children with some but not all vaccines and 2% planned not to vaccinate at all. (Percentages total more than 100% due to rounding.)

"Parents intending their children to receive some, but not all, of the recommended vaccines demonstrated a more nuanced pattern of concerns related to childhood vaccinations," the authors wrote. "They were more likely than expected to believe that children receive too many vaccines during the first two years of life and that vaccines may cause learning disabilities, such as autism."

Although 23% of parents reported that they had no concern about vaccines, most parents reported concerns regarding pain from shots (38%), too many shots at once (36%), too many vaccines before age 2 (34%), learning disabilities and autism (30%) and unsafe ingredients (26%). Parents also questioned whether vaccines were tested enough (17%), if they might cause chronic disease (16%), or would be administered to prevent diseases their children were unlikely to get (11%).

Parents are getting information about vaccine safety and the value of vaccines primarily from pediatricians. Although health providers are one of the most important sources that parents turn to (85%), one in three parents surveyed said they are not fully satisfied with the information they get on the safety and necessity of vaccines.

Next in line as information sources are family (46%) and friends (22%), and the Internet (24%), more than twice the number (10%) reported in 2009 from a different survey.

Authors came to four main conclusions:
1. Even if widespread concerns don't deter vaccination, health care providers should consider them;
2. Americans are becoming informed health consumers, and vaccine information needs to be tailored to individual needs;
3. Parents look to doctors for guidance, so doctors need to devote time to communicating information to parents; and
4. Training in communication, not necessarily more time, resulted in more in-depth patient interactions about vaccination.