Prevalence of Parental Concerns About Childhood Vaccines

The Experience of Primary Care Physicians


      Little is known about the effects of increased parental vaccine safety concerns on physicians' vaccine communication attitudes and practices.


      To assess among pediatricians and family medicine (FM) physicians: (1) prevalence of parental requests to deviate from recommended vaccine schedules; (2) responses to such requests; and (3) attitudes about the burden and success of vaccine communications with parents.


      Survey of nationally representative samples of pediatricians and FM physicians (N=696) conducted during February to May 2009 with analysis in 2010.


      Response rates were 88% for pediatricians and 78% for FM physicians. Overall, 8% of physicians reported that ≥10% of parents refused a vaccine and 20% reported that ≥10% of parents requested to spread out vaccines in a typical month. More pediatricians than FM physicians reported always/often requiring parents to sign a form if they refused vaccination (53% vs 31%, p<0.0001); 64% of all physicians would agree to spread out vaccines in the primary series at least sometimes. When talking with parents with substantial concerns, 53% of physicians reported spending 10–19 minutes and 8% spending ≥20 minutes. Pediatricians were more likely than FM physicians to report their job less satisfying because of parental vaccine concerns (46% vs 21%, p<0.0001). Messages most commonly reported as “very effective” were personal statements such as what they would do for their own children.


      The burden of communicating with parents about vaccines is high, especially among pediatricians. Physicians report the greatest success convincing skeptical parents using messages that rely on their personal choices and experiences.
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