One-quarter of U.S. parents are hesitant about seasonal flu shots for their kids, and roughly 1 in 15 feel the same way about routine childhood vaccinations, a nationwide study finds.
The issue has gained added urgency this year, as fears around coronavirus keep many parents from bringing their kids to the doctor — including routine vaccinations.
Twelve percent of the nearly 2,200 parents surveyed were strongly concerned about potential side effects of both flu shots and routine childhood immunizations, while 27% had lesser concerns.
And while 7 out of 10 strongly agreed that routine vaccinations were effective, only 26% felt the same way about flu shots.
“The fact that one in eight parents are still concerned about vaccine safety for both childhood and influenza vaccinations is discouraging,” said lead author Dr. Allison Kempe, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.
Adults with less than a bachelor’s degree were more skeptical of vaccinations. While race and ethnicity didn’t play a major role in attitudes, Hispanic parents were less hesitant about flu shots than white parents, the survey found.
The results were published June 15 in the journal Pediatrics.
Kempe said hesitancy about flu shots centers on doubts about effectiveness.
She pointed out that while flu vaccination isn’t 100% effective in preventing the flu, even when it is not a good match for the strains circulating in the population, it reduces severity of the illness.
In 2018-19, just under 6 in 10 American children were vaccinated against influenza. That rate affects everyone, Kempe said.
“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,” she said in a university news release.
Flu kills between 10,000 and 60,000 Americans a year.
Learning more about parents’ reasons for vaccine hesitancy could help reduce those numbers, according to Kempe.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on children and vaccines.
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