Survey Finds More Than A Quarter Of Parents Are Hesitant About Flu Vaccinations for Their Children

July 13, 2020

A new national study of parent attitudes about immunizations found that just over a quarter of parents are hesitant about the flu vaccine.

A new national study of parent attitudes about immunizations found that just over a quarter of parents are hesitant about the flu vaccine.

The study, which was recently published in Pediatrics, also found that 6.1% of parents remain hesitant about routine childhood vaccines.1

“The fact that 1 in 8 parents are still concerned about vaccine safety for both childhood and influenza vaccinations is discouraging,” lead author Allison Kempe, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and director of ACCORDS said in a news release about the findings.2 “But what is driving the hesitancy about the influenza vaccine is primarily doubts about its effectiveness.”

Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus surveyed 2176 parents and found that only 26% of those surveyed strongly agreed that the influenza vaccine was effective, compared with 70% of those surveyed who strongly agreed about the effectiveness of routine childhood vaccines.1

In addition, investigators found that 12% of parents strongly agreed and 27% somewhat agreed that they still had serious concerns about the adverse effects of both routine vaccinations and the influenza vaccine.1

Those parents with less education, defined by investigators as those with less than a bachelor’s degree, were more likely to be skeptical of vaccinations than those with higher levels of education. Investigators did not find significant differences in parent attitudes based on race or ethnicity, but did note that Latino parents were less hesitant than white parents about vaccinating for influenza. Parents were surveyed about their attitudes in February 2019, according to the study.1

According to the CDC, 62.6% of children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years old received the flu vaccine during the 2018-2019 flu season, but Kempe believes the significant number of children who remain unvaccinated against the flu continues to pose concerns for the community.1

“We have already seen outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles and mumps,” she said.2 “Low vaccination rates among children for influenza vaccine makes influenza seasons more severe for all portions of the population, since children are a major conduit of the disease to vulnerable parts of the population, such as the elderly.”

According to the study’s investigators, health care professionals need to focus on changing behavior to improve vaccination rates rather than focusing on beliefs or attitudes. For example, investigators suggest using standing orders, enacting preschool and other school vaccine requirements, using strong and presumptive language when discussing recommendations, minimizing philosophical exemptions, and making it easier to get vaccines at clinics and schools.1

The study also found that motivational interviewing strategies can be helpful in convincing parents who may be hesitant about vaccinating their child or using social media intervention strategies.1

The CDC estimates that during the 2019-2020 flu season, between 39 million and 56 million Americans contracted the flu.4

References

1. Kempe A, Saville AW, Albertin C, et al. Parental hesitancy about routine childhood and influenza vaccinations: A national survey. Pediatrics. July 2020. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-3852

2. National study finds significant parental hesitancy surrounding routine childhood and influenza vaccines. News Release. University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; June 15, 2020. https://news.cuanschutz.edu/news-stories/your-blog-post-national-study-finds-significant-parental-hesitancy-about-routine-childhood-and-influenza-vaccines-here.

3. CDC. Flu Vaccination Coverage, United States, 2018-19 Influenza Season. September 26, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/coverage-1819estimates.htm#:~:text=Vaccination%20coverage%20with%20≥1,in%20the%202016–17%20season..

4. CDC. 2019-2020 US Flu Season: Preliminary Burden Estimates. April 17, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/preliminary-in-season-estimates.htm.