Survey: Anti-Vaccination Parents Reliant on False, Limited Information


Officials are concerned the perpetual cycle of information sharing—by both pro- and anti-vaccination parents—is creating an echo chamber in the US.

Sarah Clark, MPH

Sarah Clark, MPH

Results from a new US-based poll indicate that parents who decline influenza vaccinations for their children are exposed to a more limited range of information than others. Additionally, inaccurate information may be what’s influencing them at all.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health—a national report from the University of Michigan, based on the responses of 1977 parents with 1 or more child aged 1-18 years—recently reported that 4 in every 10 parents base their decisions regarding the flu vaccine on what they read and hear about it.

That minority population is also less likely to have their child vaccinated than parents following the recommendations of their healthcare providers.

Surveyed parents who answered they did get their children vaccinated most commonly stated their healthcare provider, nurses, and medical staff were their primary source of information on vaccination. Despite that, about 20% of polled parents reported having not received any recommendations from their provider.

At the same time, parents who were unlikely to get the flu vaccine for their children most commonly cited their family, close friends, and other parents as primary sources which lead their questioning or concern of the annual vaccination.

Parents who were unlikely to get flu vaccine for their child cited family, close friends, and other parents as the most common sources that made them either question the flu vaccine or opt against vaccinating their child.

In comparing the rates of sources in favor or against the vaccine, parents who did not get the flu shot for their children cited 7 times as many sources challenging the vaccine as they did those in support. Investigators behind the poll believe the overwhelming negative information, coupled with their lacking information from providers, is creating an echo chamber around the flu vaccine in the US.

Sarah Clark, MPH, poll co-director and associate research scientist, University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation, expressed concern as to how such a cyclical system may prohibit parents from changing their mind.

“Parents who are not choosing flu vaccination for their child report hearing or reading opinions that question or oppose the vaccine,” Clark explained. “At the same time, parents who decided their child will get flu vaccine report opinions that largely support vaccination.”

Investigators pointed to dwindling rates of US pediatric vaccination against the flu: from fall 2017 through spring 2018, a record-setting 180 children died from influenza as less than 60% of children received the vaccine.

Even in the case of parents informed by their healthcare provider about the benefits of the vaccine, more evidential and trustworthy sources need to be made available.

“For these families, we need to explore other mechanisms to convey accurate information and allow parents to hear a more balanced viewpoint," Clark said.

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