‘Vaccine hesitancy scale’: Parents are especially suspicious of flu shots, study finds

Credit: David Goldman/AP

About 1 in 15 US parents (6.1%) is hesitant about routine childhood vaccines, and more than 1 in 4 (26%) are unsure about flu vaccines, according to a study published [June 15] in Pediatrics.

Researchers surveyed 2,176 parents in February 2019 using an online panel and a modified five-point Vaccine Hesitancy Scale found that 12% strongly agreed, and 27% somewhat agreed, that they worried about perceived serious side effects of childhood and flu vaccines. And while 70% strongly agreed that routine childhood vaccines are effective, only 26% said they thought the same about flu vaccines… 70.1% of reluctant parents said they had deferred or refused flu vaccination for their child, versus 10.0% of non-reluctant parents.

Factors predicting childhood and flu vaccine hesitancy included an educational level lower than a bachelor’s degree, household income less than 400% of the federal poverty level, residency in the western United States, having a child in the preschool years, having a higher number of children in the household, and being unmarried.

Related article:  Podcast: We need a vaccine 'Manhattan Project' to defeat COVID-19

The authors noted that the World Health Organization has deemed vaccine hesitancy 1 of the 10 biggest threats to global health. In the United States, where yearly flu vaccination is recommended for children 6 months an older, only 58% of children were vaccinated in the 2018-19 flu season.

The researchers said that messages that build on intention to vaccinate or focus on changing behavior rather than beliefs or attitudes will help providers convince more parents to vaccinate.

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