About one-third of parents of young children worry that vaccines may cause learning disabilities such as autism, while more than 40 percent question whether they are safe, according to a new survey published in Health Affairs.
The survey, analyzed by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services National Vaccine Program Office, found that the vast majority of children in the U.S. are getting regularly scheduled immunizations for infant and childhood diseases. But only 23 percent of parents reported having no concerns about childhood vaccines, suggesting that health care providers need to do more to build confidence in the safety and value of vaccines, the authors said.
“The good news is that almost all parents are getting their children vaccinated. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all parents have a high level of confidence in those vaccines,” said lead author Allison Kennedy, an epidemiologist in CDC’s Immunization Services Division. “These findings point us toward what we need to focus on to better answer questions and concerns parents have about why immunization is important.’‘
Kennedy said parental education should include thorough explanations as to why infant immunizations should occur before age two. As to concerns voiced by some parents about vaccine safety, she said, “There is no credible evidence that vaccines are associated with learning disabilities, including autism.”
About 2 percent of parents surveyed said that their children would receive none of the recommended vaccines, and 5 percent intended to vaccinate children with only some vaccines.
Chief among the concerns expressed by parents were that their children were getting too many vaccines in one doctor’s visit; that vaccines could cause fevers in their children; that vaccines could cause learning disabilities; or that the ingredients in vaccines were unsafe.
The study found that while parents get information about vaccines primarily from pediatricians, family, and friends, the Internet is increasingly becoming a source of information. A quarter of parents said they get information from the web—more than twice the number reported in 2009 in a different survey.
Kennedy said the CDC needs to do more research to better understand what sources parents are turning to and how they make use of the Internet, so the agency can make sure parents are getting accurate information.
Earlier this year, a Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found that 18 percent of respondents believed vaccines, such as the measles-mumps-rubella [MMR] vaccine, can cause autism. The poll was conducted soon after reports surfaced that the lead researcher of a controversial 1998 study linking autism to the MMR vaccine had used fraudulent research.