MONDAY, Aug. 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors are still
struggling to find effective ways to convince wary parents of the
importance of vaccinating their infant children.
The whooping cough epidemic of 2011-12 made no significant
difference in Washington state parents getting their babies up to
date on their shots, researchers found. Nearly one-third of their
infants remained unprotected against whooping cough even as the
virus spread across 49 states, according to one of three
vaccination-related studies published online Aug. 18 in the journal
About nine out of 10 parents in the United States keep up with
the recommended childhood vaccination schedule, getting their child
shots to protect against infectious diseases such as measles,
mumps, whooping cough, polio and hepatitis B, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But doctors and public health officials have found convincing
that final 10 percent of parents extremely challenging.
Parents' response to the whooping cough outbreak is "somewhat
humbling" for pediatricians who believe progress is being made
regarding the childhood immunization rate, said Dr. Carrie
Byington, chief of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on
The vaccination rate received only a slight bump during the
whooping cough epidemic -- up to 69.5 percent of infants in
Washington state -- and fell back to 67.6 percent afterward.
"It tells us we still have a ways to go in understanding human behavior and what motivates people regarding their health," Byington said.
One way to predict which parents will reject vaccination for
their children is to keep track of who refuses their baby a vitamin
K shot at birth, Canadian researchers report in one of the
Vitamin K is recommended for newborns to prevent a rare bleeding
disorder that can result in long-term brain damage and death,
researchers said in background information.
Only a small minority of parents in Alberta, Canada, refused a
vitamin K shot for their newborns between 2006 and 2012, the study
But children whose parents declined vitamin K were 14.6 times
less likely to be immunized with any recommended childhood vaccines
by age 15 months, compared to kids who got vitamin K.
Byington said refusal of vitamin K at birth "is a factor that
can help pediatricians identify vaccine-hesitant parents."
But how to convince those parents of the importance of
Indiana University researchers tested four messages in a
national online survey involving more than 800 parents of children
younger than 12 months old. "We wanted to get parents where we knew
this would be an upcoming decision for them, where they were
thinking about doing it but hadn't done it yet," said lead author
Kristin Hendrix, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the
Indiana University School of Medicine.
The messages, which advocated for the measles-mumps-rubella
vaccination (MMR), included: a simple vaccine information statement
from the CDC; the CDC statement plus information on the vaccine's
benefits to the child; the CDC statement and mention of societal
benefits of vaccination; and the CDC statement plus information on
the importance of vaccination for their child and society as a
Messages that focused on the benefits to the child had the most
impact, researchers found.
More than 90 percent of parents who heard the child-focused
message or the combination child-society message said they intend
to get their infant vaccinated, compared with 86 percent of parents
who received just the basic CDC information.
"We found parents who received the information that really drove home the benefits directly to their child, that was the information that really resonated and resulted in the highest levels of intent to vaccinate," said Hendrix.
The CDC has worked hard to create a less confusing immunization
schedule for parents to follow, said Dr. Jennifer Frost, medical
director of the Health of the Public and Science Division of the
American Academy of Family Physicians.
Despite this, "I think hesitancy is increasing, and that's a
problem," Frost said. "There's a lot of information on the Web that
parents look at and believe because it's out there, and it can be
very hard to counter."
Vaccines are safe and effective, Frost added. "Parents who are
hesitant -- even though they think they are doing it for the
benefit of their child -- are actually putting their child at
risk," she said.
For more information on U.S. vaccination rates, visit the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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