Vaccination: Parental Concerns Persist, Despite Steady Rate in US

March 8, 2018 by: Diane Hayes, PhD Article Tags:

Vaccinations and the new school year go hand in hand-as does continued controversy on the topic.

All 50 states require vaccines before children begin school, although many recognize some religious and philosophical exemptions. Yet this government directive has been challenged by many. California upped the ante by recently enacting a statewide law that stringently regulates the vaccination of school-aged children and could possibly affect the national standard. The state will only accept medical reasons for an exemption. Without proof of vaccination, the child does not go to school.

Mississippi and West Virginia also have laws banning students from enrolling in public and private schools unless a doctor certifies that a child has a medical condition making vaccination too risky.

Much of the parental concern over vaccines stems from a hotly debated assertion of the connection of the MMR vaccine (for the prevention of mumps, measles, and rubella) to bowel disease and autism, based on just one study supporting the relationship- a study in which the data was later proven to have been fabricated. Legislative discussion is keeping the topic in the headlines in California, where a judge declined to block the strict vaccination law, and in Texas, where a proposal during the last legislative session to make campus-level vaccination data available did not move forward.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly emphasized that multiple studies show no link between vaccines and autism, and that parent education regarding the safety of vaccines is imperative. Vaccines, of course, protect the children who receive them, but they especially protect those children with serious health conditions for whom attendance at school among the unvaccinated poses a potentially life-threatening risk.
US pediatricians and public health officials worry about diseases, such as polio, that have been eradicated in the US for over 30 years, yet still exist in a few countries in Asia and Africa. If widespread US vaccination is disrupted, in our era of frequent travel, it is very likely that travelers could bring back the virus with potentially dire ramifications to at-risk populations here. As a result, the CDC emphasized the importance of continued polio vaccination in community outreach this summer.

No Marked Change to Reported Vaccination Rates
In order to gauge what’s really happening, life science market insights technology firm InCrowd surveyed 263 US-based pediatricians to obtain real-time data surrounding their perspectives on vaccine trends among their patients. Respondents had an average of 18 years of practice and their responses were fielded in a several-hour period on May 11, 2016.
The good news is that the surveyed pediatricians are reporting a steady rate of vaccination among their patients in the last year. The not-so-good news to many is that there remains a level of uncertainty related to developmental delays, and a lack of education on this topic among parents of young children.

•    Sixty-one percent of US pediatricians said they did not see a marked change in the number of patients receiving the recommended vaccination schedule.

•    Furthermore, of the 39% of pediatricians who noted a change in the number of patients receiving recommended vaccinations, 71% actually reported more patients receiving the recommended vaccinations, with just 29% reporting fewer patients receiving them.

•    The most common parental reservations expressed about vaccination to the surveyed pediatricians included:
o Developmental delays associated with autism, with 73% of pediatricians reporting that their parents have expressed this concern.
o Concerns of parents that too many vaccines are given at one time, reported by 69% of pediatrician respondents.
o Concerns over the ingredients in vaccinations, according to 51% of the pediatrician respondents.
•    When asked some of the best ways that the healthcare industry could better inform parents about vaccination, 49% of US pediatricians surveyed suggested allocating more time during patient visits to discuss vaccination concerns.

It’s a subject that bears careful consideration by all parents due to the seriousness of the risks to their child if he or she is left unvaccinated-as well as to the sustained health of the community at large.

Diane Hayes

Diane Hayes, PhD