Even though the flu vaccine is recommended by doctors for all children who are at least 6 months of age, a startling number of parents have admitted they will be skipping the flu shot for their children this year.
The numbers come from a poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital of almost 2000 parents who had at least one child between the ages of 1 and 18 years. Despite increasing information about the dangers of the flu a shocking 34% of parents stated they would be unlikely to get their child vaccinated this year.
In a report conducted by the hospital about the findings, they found that parents may be basing their decision on whether or not to get their child the flu shot on inaccurate information. While 48% of parents say they based their decision on whether to vaccinate or not on their doctor's recommendations, 38% said they base their decisions on information they read and hear. Of the parents who took their doctors advice, 87% had their children vaccinated, while only 56% of those who base their decision on what they've read or heard will get their child vaccinated against the flu. What may even be more shocking is that 1 in 5 parents surveyed stated their doctor made no recommendation at all.
“Child health providers are a critical source of information to explain the rationale for annual flu vaccination and to address parents’ questions about flu vaccine safety and effectiveness,” says poll co-director Sarah Clark. “Without clear guidance from the provider, parents may be left with misinformation, such as the suggestion that flu vaccine causes the flu.”
Parents who chose to not get their child the flu vaccine stated that comments from family members and friends as well as other parents were a large part of their decision against the flu shot.
“There appears to be an echo chamber around flu vaccine,” Clark says. “Parents who are not choosing flu vaccination for their child report hearing or reading opinions that question or oppose the vaccine. At the same time, parents who decided their child will get flu vaccine report opinions that largely support vaccination.”
Clark says that for parents who don't want to get the vaccine, they tend to find information that supports their decision and therefore they feel justified. “It’s important to acknowledge that for some parents, child health providers are not the sole influence, or even the primary influence, on decisions about the flu vaccine,” Clark said.
The CDC reports that 180 children died from the flu or flu-related illness last year, with hundreds more hospitalized for flu related illnesses. 74% of those children who died were not vaccinated. Even though there is a recommendation that all children over the age of 6 months get the flu shot, it is still has one of the lowest vaccination rates among children.
"We don't give the flu vaccine the credit it deserves," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told CNN.
"The vaccine is not perfect, none of us believe it is, but it's the best thing we have for preventing influenza, and even if it doesn't prevent the illness completely, and this is very important, it tends to make the illness milder," said Schaffner.