Vaccine Hesitancy

August is National Vaccination Month, the month when many parents rush to get their kids’ immunizations caught up before school starts. This year, school reopenings are more complicated than usual, and the coronavirus has caused some parents to skip routine pediatric visits — including vaccinations. The World Health Organization designated vaccine hesitation as one of the Top 10 public health problems last year. 

The latest issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, includes a report on vaccine hesitancy in the United States which gives us up to date information on the views of American parents. 

The researchers sent surveys to more than 4400 parents and received responses from 2176 families. This is the largest such survey so far in the United States. 

  • 6.1 percent of respondents said that they were hesitant to have their children receive normal childhood vaccinations. 
  • 70 percent said they believed those vaccinations are effective. 

The researchers concluded that vaccine hesitancy is in fact a problem in the United States. 

Why is vaccine hesitancy a problem?

Parents who hesitate to vaccinate their children may choose not to vaccinate. Children who do not receive their vaccinations are at risk of contracting serious childhood diseases such as measles and pertussis. With more unvaccinated children, the whole community is at risk. 

Last year, the Philippines saw an outbreak of polio, a nearly forgotten disease which killed thousands of American children every year in the mid-20th century. The outbreak in the Phillippines was the result of vaccine hesitancy. Many news stories about outbreaks come from distant places, as this one did. Yet the new study shows that there is enough vaccine hesitancy in the United States to constitute a danger.

Should you hesitate about vaccines?

Vaccines save millions of lives each year. Nothing else has made so much difference in child mortality over the past century. Recent research confirms that this is the case even over the past 50 years. 

If you have concerns about vaccinations, your pediatrician can help answer your questions.