Vaccines have become a hot topic in the past few years, but a new survey finds many parents aren’t discussing immunization with their child’s doctor.

Though a child’s pediatrician has often been the go-to resource on vaccines, the University of Michigan Medicine poll found that 1 in 7 parents have not discussed vaccines with their child’s doctor during the pandemic.

While 80% of parents have talked with their child’s pediatrician about immunizations required for school, only 68% have discussed a flu vaccine and only 57% have sought information about a COVID-19 vaccine.

“With a new vaccine like COVID, we would expect parents to have a lot of questions and concerns, and we would expect parents to turn to that trusted primary care provider who has guided them through other vaccine decisions for their child,” said Sarah Clark, co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at University of Michigan Health.

“The lower rates of discussions for the COVID vaccine may suggest a downturn in the role of the primary care provider as the go-to source on this topic,” she said in a poll news release.

About 6% of parents don’t get any vaccines for their children. The poll discovered that 43% of that smaller group have had no vaccine discussions with any healthcare provider in the past two years. Another 3% said they delayed or skipped a health care visit for their child to avoid talking about vaccines.

That “3% translates to a lot of children across America,” Clark said.

“Avoiding conversations about vaccines with a child’s health provider prevents caretakers from learning about and considering new information that might influence their decision,” she explained.

“When parents delay or skip visits altogether, they are not prioritizing their child’s well-being,” Clark added. “Children won’t receive screening for medical or mental health problems, and parents will not receive information or guidance about how to keep their child healthy and safe.”

Parents who did talk with their child’s doctor about flu or COVID vaccines said they had positive experiences. Most said providers were open to their questions and concerns. More than 70% said they learned helpful information.

That group that did discuss vaccines with their child’s regular provider were also more likely to get their child vaccinated.

About a quarter of parents had trouble getting vaccines for their child over the past two years. Some of that may have been related to pandemic precautions, Clark noted.

“Even when parents bring the child in for a visit, they may be told that they need to go elsewhere to get flu and COVID vaccines, requiring extra time and hassle for families,” Clark said.

This poll was based on responses from 1,483 parents with at least one child between the ages of 6 and 18.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on vaccines for children.

SOURCE: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, news release, Nov. 21, 2022