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Bittersweet News On Parental Attitudes Toward Vaccines

March 4, 2010 3 comments

By Amy Pisani

A new study that was released by researchers from the University of Michigan and published in the journal Pediatrics this week revealed some bittersweet news about parents’ attitudes toward vaccinating their children.  While the survey of 1,552 parents found that one in four U.S. parents believes some vaccines cause autism in healthy children, the study also found that most parents continue to follow the advice of their children’s doctors, with nine out of ten saying that they parents believe that vaccination is a good way to prevent diseases for their children.

The information from this survey tells me that public education campaigns conducted by organizations such as Every Child By Two and many others (click here for a list) fill a critical role in conveying scientific information to the public.  It’s only natural that parents will have questions about their children’s health, but it’s up to the public health community to answer them in a clear and comprehensive way.  As lead author of the study Dr. Gary Freed says, most of parents’ fears are unfounded, so it’s essential that “physicians … take parental concerns seriously. They need to be aware of and familiar with the data on the safety of vaccines, because parents deserve to have concrete info on vaccine safety.”

Doctor-patient communication is critical, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) partnered to develop some great resources for providers to communicate with parents about vaccine concerns. Click here to check it out.

In order to better prepare parents prior to their child’s vaccines, I’d like everyone to share with their friends and family some credible resources to which parents can turn to have some of their tough questions answered. For example, Every Child By Two posed some frequently asked questions to several experts in the fields of immunization and autism and recorded the expert answers here

Another item that concerned me was that parents believe that newer vaccines are untested, and less safe than ones that have been around longer. I want to reiterate that all vaccines go through the same, very stringent and lengthy, regulatory review process. Because vaccines are given to healthy individuals, they undergo a more rigorous approval process than drugs which are given to cure sick people. Vaccines are also tested in combination with one another so that they are proven to be safe in the context of the CDC schedule as well.  Licensing of vaccines typically takes 15 years and an average of $800 million of manufacturers’ money. For more info on this process, click here, or visit the FDA web site.

Finally, the study also pointed out that although Hispanic families have the lowest rate of vaccine refusal as compared to white or black individuals, they were more likely to believe that some vaccines cause autism.   The researchers suggested that “addressing this concern explicitly before it has an impact on immunization rates should be strongly considered by both public health officials and private providers in these communities.”

I hope that you will share this information with any concerned parents out there who may not have had all of their questions answered!

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