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Parents Worrying More about Childhood Vaccinations


If you are a parent of an infant or of young children, chances are you are worrying more about the vaccinations recommended for your children, according to a new study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. According to the new findings, many parents are refusing and delaying vaccinations.

Childhood vaccinations continue to raise concerns

The current childhood vaccination schedule as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes 12 or more different vaccines and more than 30 doses, depending on which vaccines parents and healthcare professionals choose for the children. Given the controversies revolving around the timing and use of vaccines at all, some parents are expressing their concerns by refusing and/or delaying immunizations.

In the new study, which was headed by Allison Kempe, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and director of the Children’s Outcomes Research Program at The Children’s Hospital, physicians reported on parents’ attitudes about vaccinations for children. Overall, physicians say parents’ concerns about vaccines have increased over the past five years.

Kempe and her team noted that overall, 8 percent of physicians said at least 10 percent of parents refused a vaccine and 20 percent said that at least 10 percent of parents asked the doctor to spread out vaccines in a typical month.

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Physicians reported spending more time talking to parents about vaccinations: 53 percent said they spend 10 to 19 minutes, and 8 percent spend at least 20 minutes discussing vaccinations. Pediatricians were more than twice as likely than family medicine practitioners to say they found their job less satisfying because parents were so concerned about vaccines.

Kempe and her team also found that:

  • 40 percent of physicians always or often require parents to sign a form stating that they refuse a vaccination.
  • Most physicians agree to spread out a vaccine in the primary series at least part of the time
  • About 10 percent of physicians often or always dismiss families from their practice if they refuse the primary vaccines
  • Physicians said their most successful way to convince worried parents about vaccines was to make it personal, such as saying they had vaccinated their own children, or saying they thought it was safer to vaccinate than not to vaccinate.

The investigative team found that although primary care physicians are working hard to educate parents about vaccinations, they are spending a great deal of time doing so. Kempe noted that “they may have to compromise other health care topics if these discussions are long.”

She explained that these physicians would benefit from “a multi-pronged approach,” that involves exposing parents to more educational materials before their doctor visit, or group visits. Other options include more training for physicians in how to discuss vaccines with parents, increased use of social marketing targeting parents who are concerned about vaccines, and allowing physicians to bill for time they spend discussing vaccine concerns, among other ideas.

Many parents are concerned about issues related to vaccinations, ranging from giving vaccines at too young an age to worries about side effects related to giving one or more vaccines together. This study highlights the concerns of both parents and physicians about childhood vaccinations, a topic that will likely continue to be controversial.

University of Colorado School of Medicine