Study: About 1 in 5 Parents Are ‘Vaccine Hesitant’

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Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, reviewed the study findings.

Offit said while it’s good to see a decline in vaccine hesitancy, it’s important to see if this difference is sustained for more than one year.

Asked about vaccine-hesitant parents possibly skipping flu vaccines for their children, Offit said, “Flu is hard — it’s a yearly vaccine, and because the flu mutates every year, it’s not as effective a vaccine — it’s only around 50% effective.”

But the vaccine is most effective in kids. And, he said, it’s important to remember that flu sends hundreds of thousands of people to the hospital every year and kills tens of thousands.

Dr. Michael Grosso, chief medical officer and chairman of pediatrics at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in New York, said lack of confidence rather than lack of access appears to be “the major driver of under-immunization in the U.S.” He said pediatricians encounter it almost daily.

Grosso cited several contributing factors.

“One is lack of familiarity with vaccine-preventable conditions like measles and whooping cough. In this regard, it has been said that the international vaccine program is the victim of its own success,” he explained.

Other factors include opposition to public health mandates in general, feeling as if the decision is one parents should make, and for some, an anti-science sentiment.

“Needless to say, these issues are exacerbated by social media that amplify the worries of like-minded parents, making it hard for many to discern what is real and what is myth,” Grosso said.

More information

Learn more about how vaccines work from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Tammy Santibanez, PhD, epidemiologist, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Atlanta; Paul Offit, MD, director, Vaccine Education Center, and professor, pediatrics, division of infectious diseases, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Michael Grosso, MD, chief medical officer and chair, pediatrics, Northwell Health, Huntington Hospital, New York; Pediatrics, Nov. 9, 2020, online

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