When I had my first daughter eight years ago, I remember looking at her tiny, little body and wondering how it could handle the multitude of vaccines recommended by my pediatrician.
Back then there wasn't as much readily-available and, excuse the pun, "viral" information about what happened when you refused vaccines, like those for the measles and whooping cough. I mean, who got those illnesses anymore? Today, thanks in large part to the wonders of the Internet, we know that when we don't vaccinate our kids, they are actually very vulnerable to contracting these potentially-deadly diseases.
Yet, even a plethora of information about the benefits of following the vaccine schedule, and the heartbreaking consequences of not doing so, can't convince every parent of the dire importance of immunizing their children. In fact, a new study, "Vaccine Delays, Refusals, and Patient Dismissals: A Survey of Pediatricians," just published in Pediatrics, finds that more parents are refusing vaccines for their kids than they did a decade ago.
For the study, researchers looked at around 629 pediatrician surveys in both 2006 and 2013. Of the random samples of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) members, they found 87 percent had encountered vaccine refusals in 2013, versus 75 percent in 2006.
Interestingly, pediatricians perceive the reasons parents are refusing vaccines to be different than why they delay the vaccine schedule. Most recently, parents may have delayed immunizing their kids because they didn't want them to experience discomfort, or overload their tiny immune systems (sounds familiar!). Meanwhile, refusals most often resulted from parents believing vaccines are unnecessary. Thinking there was no need for vaccines is a reason for refusal that rose by 10 percent over the time period studied.
It's worth noting that the concern about vaccines causing autism decreased in frequency; 74 percent of parents who refused vaccines cited this fear in 2006, while just 64 percent did in 2013.
Another eye-opening statistic that emerged from the study is that the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which was introduced in 2006, continues to have lower acceptance rates than other vaccines that have been recommended longer, suggesting doctors need to do more to educate parents about its effectiveness, as well as the importance of following the complete vaccine schedule.
The study also found more pediatricians are dismissing patients who refuse vaccinations.
Study author Catherine Hough-Telford, M.D., FAAP says this new study supports prior research that suggests the public's collective memory of vaccine-preventable diseases may be fading. "Just a few generations ago, illnesses like polio, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles were causing widespread disease and mortality in babies and kids," she told Parents.com. "Vaccines are crucial for the health of our children and our society. They don't only protect individual patients, but also people who cannot get vaccines, such as cancer patients, pregnant women, and newborns. Vaccines are safe, vaccines are effective, and vaccines save lives."
If parents have concerns about vaccines, Dr. Hough-Telford encourages them to bring it up with their pediatrician. "They are the best resource. Just like anything else, they want to know if you are concerned and why," she says. "I also encourage parents to continue to read about vaccines from good, reputable resources such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control."
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.