Study evaluates parents’ reluctance to vaccinate asthmatic kids

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Concern over vaccine safety is one of the primary factors preventing parents from having their asthmatic children vaccinated for influenza, or flu, according to Michigan researchers. Parents who do not vaccinate their children are also less likely to view flu as a “trigger” for their child’s asthma, the researchers noted.

The study was presented at the ATS 2011 International Conference in Denver.

“When school starts in the fall, and during the winter season, many parents start dreading the cold and flu season,” said lead author Toby Lewis, MD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatric pulmonology at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“This is particularly true for parents of children with asthma, who recognize that ‘a little cold’ can quickly trigger an asthma attack. Fortunately, there is something that can be done to reduce the chances of getting sick from influenza, one of the common winter viruses, and that is getting a vaccination to help prevent this infection. ”

Influenza vaccination is recommended for all children, but especially for children with asthma to help prevent asthma exacerbations or ‘flares,'” Dr. Lewis added. “Despite this recommendation, vaccination rates remain low. The reasons for under-immunization are poorly understood.”

To determine parental attitudes toward the flu vaccine, and learn the reasons why some parents do not have their asthmatic children vaccinated, the researchers conducted a national survey from August 13 — Sept 7, 2010 of 1,621 parents; 237 parents indicated at least one child had asthma and were included in the final compilation of data.

“The parents included in the study were ethnically diverse and were from a broad spectrum of economic backgrounds,” Dr. Lewis noted.

Of those surveyed, 70 percent reported that they vaccinated their child against seasonal or H1N1 influenza during the prior winter season (2009-2010), and 65 percent stated that they planned to have their child vaccinated against influenza in the upcoming season (2010-2011), indicating consistency in vaccination behavior. The study also found that parents who did not vaccinate their asthmatic children against influenza were less likely than those that did vaccinate indicate that getting a viral infection was a “very important” trigger of their child’s asthma (53 percent vs. 72 percent), and were more likely to be concerned about vaccine side effects (60 percent vs. 26 percent) and getting sick from the vaccine itself (41 percent vs. 13 percent).

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