Belief in vaccines waning for doctors & parents

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The results of two surveys presented at the 2011 Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) meeting highlighted ongoing issues in the belief systems of physicians and parents about pediatric vaccines.

A survey of 551 primary care providers found that younger physicians were more likely to believe that vaccines do more harm than good. Recent graduates from medical school had 15% lower odds of believing that these immunizations were efficacious compared with their older counterparts (abstract 324).

“What we found was that overall support for vaccines remains high in both old and young physicians at about 81%; however, on a relative scale, we were able to pick up subtle but statistically significant signs of a differential cohort effect related to vaccines,” said Saad Omer, MD, assistant professor of global health, epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta, during a press briefing at IDSA.

Younger physicians also were 20% more likely to believe that the vaccines for polio, measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and varicella are not safe.

Survey participants were stratified into five-year blocks according to their year of graduation from medical school. A logistics regression method was used to find relationships between physician beliefs and age.

Dr. Omer initially was interested in researching this topic to investigate whether some of the anti-immunization beliefs of parents were shared among physicians.

The cause of the cohort effect they observed may be the result of widespread immunization efforts during the 20th century. “Vaccines have been so effective that many of these diseases have fallen off the radar of younger physicians,” said Dr. Omer. “If you have never treated a case of whooping cough, that can impact both the individual’s and institution’s priorities.”

A separate online survey conducted with members of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAPA) from nine midwestern states investigated how physicians deal with parents who refuse vaccines or alter the recommended schedule for their children.

The results from 909 pediatricians showed that they use a variety of methods to persuade noncompliant parents: 95% discuss vaccine options and benefits with the family, 66% refer them to relevant Web sites and 63% provide evidence-based literature (abstract 634

IDSA & Infectious Disease Special Edition

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