Majority of Parents Vaccinate Children, Despite Fears of Autism

Filed under: In The News


Their children's tears aren't the only reason parents hate getting their kids vaccinated. While the vast majority of parents believe vaccines prevent their children from getting sick, many still harbor doubts as to their safety, according to a study published in the online version of Pediatrics.

Despite those fears, most parents -- 88 percent -- still follow their doctor's advice about immunizations, according to the study. But, after surveying more than 1,500 parents nationwide as part of the CS Mott National Poll on Children's Health, researchers at the University of Michigan Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit found that 54 percent of parents are worried those shots may have harmful side effects.

"Parents are trying to do the right thing for their children and it's important for everyone to remember that," says Dr. Gary Freed, the study's lead author and director of the child health evaluation and research unit. "The problem is parents receive erroneous information."
Most disturbing to researchers was the finding that one in four parents continue to believe some vaccines can cause autism in otherwise healthy children, despite findings that a study that first allegedly established that link was fraudulent, Freed tells ParentDish in a phone interview.

Health care experts worry that more and more parents will decline to have their children immunized because of their fears.

"If in fact kids don't get vaccines, then they become susceptible to life-threatening diseases that can cause death or serious damage," Freed says.

Already, parents' unwillingness to vaccinate their children has led to outbreaks of mumps, measles and other preventable diseases. Freed says he once took care of a child who died of measles after his parents declined the vaccination.

"It was terrible," Freed says. "It was a tragedy for the parents, it was a tragedy for the child, it was a tragedy for everyone."

Overall, 12 percent of the parents surveyed had refused at least one recommended vaccine, and they were more likely to shy away from those that had been newly introduced, such one against HPV, the study showed. Women were more likely than men to believe some vaccines can cause autism; they were also more concerned about side effects and more likely to have declined a vaccine a doctor wanted to give their child.

Hispanic parents were less likely to go against their doctor's advice about vaccines, but more likely than black or white parents to believe that they can cause autism, the study's authors found.

Freed puts much of the responsibility at the doorstep of his colleagues.

"I think many physicians are not prepared to be able to explain to parents how extensively new vaccines are tested before they're put on the market, and I think that could help alleviate parental fears," he tells ParentDish.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.