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New Survey: Parental Vaccine Acceptance on a Slight Upswing

NEW YORK – Physicians pushing for childhood vaccinations might be getting slightly less resistance, at least for some conditions, according to a new survey.

The 2016 Medscape Vaccine Acceptance Report surveyed more than 1,500 pediatricians, family medicine physicians, public health physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to determine clinician perceptions about the current levels of vaccine acceptance, refusal, and requests to delay the vaccine schedule from parents.

Results indicate that 46% of clinicians reported more acceptance of vaccines overall in their practice, while only 12% of clinicians reported less vaccine acceptance than the year before.

At the same time, survey respondents reported that many parents remain reluctant to vaccinate their children for diseases such as HPV; 61% cited that as the most frequently refused or delayed vaccination. Others with high rates of refusal were influenza (39%) and MMR (37%), although acceptance for the latter increased by 15 points over 2015.

"Despite changes in policy, the availability of information, and significantly greater awareness about the risks associated with vaccine refusal, the modest increase in acceptance we saw this year suggests that work still needs to be done to improve vaccination acceptance," Hansa Bhargava, MD, pediatric editor for Medscape and WebMD, said in a press release. "While there is no one solution, it's important that clinicians proactively address parental concerns while educating their patients about the fact that vaccines not only help keep their family safe, but they also protect others by making diseases less likely to spread."

More than half of all clinicians who noted less vaccine acceptance suggested the following reasons:

  • parental fears of adverse events,
  • concerns about added ingredients in vaccines, and
  • fear of overwhelming a child's immune system with too many vaccines.

For the HPV vaccine in particular, the survey respondents said parents weren’t concerned about the risk of their child contracting a sexually transmitted disease (71%) but were worried that the vaccine promotes sexual activity (46%).

The increase in vaccine acceptance appeared to be related to growing concern among the majority of parents (72%) about the increased outbreaks of infectious diseases and denial of admission to school, daycare, or camp (44%).

Most of the clinicians, including 74% of pediatricians, said state laws should be passed or made stronger that mandate certain vaccinations and remove exemptions for school admission.

The 2016 Medscape Vaccine Acceptance Report was completed by 1,551 healthcare professionals (505 family medicine physicians, 505 pediatricians, 38 public health physicians, 328 nurse practitioners, and 175 physician assistants) from May 8, 2016, to May 31, 2016. The margin of error for the survey was +/- 2.49% at a 95% confidence level.