Parents still concerned about vaccine safety, new study shows

Although American children are getting vaccinated in record numbers, a new survey shows that the majority of parents continue to have concerns about vaccine safety. Results of a study published in the June issue of Health Affairs indicate a strong need for providing both healthcare providers and parents with evidence of the major benefits of vaccines and how these benefits far outweigh the risk of adverse side effects.

According to the article, parents are concerned are about the safety of vaccine ingredients, pain from the shots and the number of immunizations recommended for young children.  The data shows a number of parents remain unconvinced vaccines are truly necessary and are safe for their children.  The survey results were analyzed by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a joint effort with investigators from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Vaccine Program Office. Their findings suggest more action needs to be taken to address the doubts and uncertainties of concerned parents.

Although the report found around 8 in 10 parents follow the childhood vaccination schedule recommended by the CDC, many have concerns about immunizations. Those concerns include short-term vaccine side effects such as fever and the possible link between immunizations and autism.

“Addressing these worries is critical to ensuring that parents continue to immunize their children,” said lead study author Allison Kennedy, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Immunization Services Division.

“The good news is that almost all parents are getting their children vaccinated. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all parents have a high level of confidence in those vaccines,” said Kennedy. She went on to explain, “These findings point us toward what we need to focus on to better answer questions and concerns parents have about why immunization is important.”

Researchers examined data from 376 adults who participated in the 2010 HealthStyles survey, which examines parental vaccine behaviors, attitudes and concerns. Participants were parents or guardians of at least one child aged 6 or younger.

While 23% of parents reported having no concerns about vaccines, researchers found  about 77% of parents had at least one concern about immunizing their children. The top worries were the pain involved when receiving vaccines and the number of immunizations administered in a single office visit as well as in a child’s first two years.

About 1 in 4 parents are concerned vaccine ingredients are unsafe. About 1 in 9 say children are not likely to develop the diseases that the recommended vaccines prevent.

Immunization concerns were more common among parents whose children received some of the suggested vaccines than in parents whose children got all of the immunizations.

5% of parents intend to get their children immunized against some of the recommended vaccines, and 2% refused all immunizations.

Although there are obvious concerns among parents, the study showed 94% of parents immunized their children with all the recommended vaccines or plan to do so.

The analysis also found parents turned to pediatricians first, then family, friends and the internet as their information sources regarding the safety and benefits of vaccines.

Kennedy noted that the CDC needs to do more research to improve their understanding of what information sources are being used by parents, including their use of the Internet, in order to be sure they are provided with accurate information. In addition, although health providers continue to be a top source of information for parents, one in three parents reported not being satisfied with the information obtained from pediatricians regarding the safety and necessity of vaccines.


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