Hard to Change Minds of ‘Vaccine-Hesitant’ Parents

By Amy Norton
HealthDay reporter

WEDNESDAY, October 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) – When parents worry about the safety of childhood immunizations, it can be difficult to change their mind, as a new study shows.

The study involved “vaccine-reluctant” parents – a group distinct from the “anti-vaxxer” crowd. They worry about one or more routine vaccines and wonder if the benefits for their child are worth it.

Even if these parents are not “categorically” against vaccinations, it can still be difficult for pediatricians to allay their concerns, said Jason Glanz, principal investigator of the study.

Glanz and his colleagues therefore investigated whether giving parents more information – online material “tailored” to their specific concerns – could help.

It was not the case. Parents who received the information were no more likely than other parents to have their babies up to date on immunizations than other parents, according to the study.

The news was not all bad. Overall, over 90% of the babies in the study were all vaccinated.

So it may have been difficult to improve on those numbers, according to Glanz, who is based at the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research in Aurora.

But, he said, it’s also possible that the personalized information may have heightened some parents’ concerns.

“It could have done more harm than good,” Glanz said.

This is because among parents hesitant about vaccination, those who were directed to general information do not tailor-made, had the highest vaccination rates – at 88%.

The results were published online on October 12 in Pediatrics.

Childhood immunization rates in the United States are generally high. But studies show that about 10% of parents delay or refuse to vaccinate their children – usually out of concern for safety.

Routine vaccines for children have a long history of safe use, Glanz said, but some parents have questions. They may have heard that some of the ingredients in vaccines are not safe, or they may have heard that their baby will be vaccinated “too much” in a short period of time.

And on a busy pediatrician visit, Glanz said, all of these questions can be difficult to answer.

His team therefore tested a web tactic to increase street checks. They randomly assigned 824 pregnant women and new parents to one of three groups: one received standard vaccine information from their pediatrician; another was directed to the study’s website for additional, but general, information on vaccinations; and the third received personalized information from the website.

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