Study shows vaccine rates low due to vaccine safety

Several officials have been trying to figure out why some parents vaccinate and some do not. Now a group of medical students is trying their hand at figuring out the same thing, according to a recent article in Newswise.

A study conducted by second-year University of Vermont (UVM) medical students identified several potential causes for drops in Vermont children’s immunization rate, which ranks as one of the lowest nationally. The article states, “Childhood immunizations – long proven invaluable in preventing contagious diseases – have become increasingly controversial. Despite numerous studies supporting safety and efficacy, a growing number of parents refuse to vaccinate their children.”

Results of the group’s 22-question survey showed that the primary reasons for refusal to vaccinate include potential side effects and a belief that the diseases vaccinated against are not harmful. The survey, which covered parents’ healthcare knowledge about their children, vaccination concerns and vaccination status, was sent to participants of Vermont’s Women Infant and Children’s Program at two district health offices.

A total of 82% of surveyors (386 respondents) reported their children had received all the recommended vaccinations for their age. Respondents who were age 30 and over or had less education were significantly associated with reporting their children as current on vaccinations.

Respondents who considered themselves highly knowledgeable about their child’s healthcare and confident about vaccine safety, were significantly associated with reporting children as being current on vaccinations. Intent for future vaccination was predicted by both healthcare knowledge and confidence in vaccine safety.

The student group concluded that respondents were most concerned about safety and number of vaccinations administered during one visit. In addition, the group identified that primary care providers play a critical role in addressing parental concerns and therefore, could play an equally critical role in improving vaccination rates. They believe this approach could be replicated elsewhere to improve immunization rates.

Representatives of the research group will present their findings at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on October 29, 2011.

Although Vermont’s vaccination rates may be low, other states do not consider this vaccinations a major concern. According to a study about vaccine safety published in the June issue of Health Affairs, the report found that while about 8 in 10 parents follow the childhood vaccination schedule recommended by the CDC, many have concerns about immunizations.

Some common concerns are about the safety of vaccine ingredients, pain from the shots and the number of immunizations recommended for young children, yet parents still choose to vaccinate.

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.”

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