The flu vaccine is recommended for any child age six months or older yet one-third of parents say they likely won’t have their children get the flu shot, according to a nationally representative poll published Monday.
The survey, conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, sought to gauge parent attitudes towards flu vaccination. Last year, approximately 180 children died from flu-related complications, one of the worst seasons on record. About 80 percent of the children who died weren’t vaccinated against the flu.
The nationally representative survey, conducted in October, asked almost 2,000 parents if they were planning on getting their children vaccinated and reasons for or against. While two-thirds of parents said they would vaccinate their children, 34 percent said “their child was unlikely to do so.”
The researchers identified at least two influential sources on parents, health care providers and public opinion. Among parents who said they typically follow the advice of their physician, 87 percent said they would vaccinate their child against flu. Among parents who base their decision only on what they read and hear, only 56 percent said they would get the flu vaccine this year.
“Overall, findings suggest that child health providers play a critical role in helping many parents understand the importance of annual flu vaccine for children. However, for many parents, child health providers are not the sole influence, or even the primary influence, on decisions about flu vaccine,” the authors wrote.
“As such, other mechanisms are needed to convey accurate information, in language parents can understand, about the importance of annual flu vaccine for children.”
About 45 percent of respondents said the opinion of family or close friends impact whether or not they will vaccinate their children against seasonal flu and 44 percent cited the opinion of other parents. Internet sites influenced about 40 percent of respondents, about 35 percent cited comments from the healthcare provider; 32 percent took advice from nurses and medical staff and 32 percent looked at parenting books or magazines.
Parents who are against vaccination were more likely to report at least seven negative stories against vaccination than parents who are for vaccination, who would cite about four positive stories, the researchers found.
“A noteworthy finding from this Mott Poll is that there may be somewhat of an echo chamber of information sources about flu vaccine for children.”
Some parents may seek out specific people or information sources that reinforce their held beliefs, they said.
“Other parents may encounter a broader range of information but have ‘selective hearing’ in remembering only those sources that support their decision on whether their child will get flu vaccine.”
The researchers also gauged how important physician recommendations were to parents decision-making process, with about 51 percent of parents saying their health care provider “strongly” recommended the flu vaccine and 26 percent “mostly” recommending the vaccine.
About 21 percent of parents said they don’t recall their provider making a recommendation and about two percent said the provider recommended against the flu vaccine.
“Provider recommendation is linked to high flu vaccine rates, but 1 in 5 parents said their child’s provider did not make a recommendation,” the authors wrote.