Nearly 1 in 5 parents in the U.S. considered themselves “vaccine hesitant” in 2019, according to a new government study published in the medical journal Pediatrics.
Vaccine hesitancy, which was defined in the study as “the mental state of holding back in doubt or indecision regarding vaccination,” was more prevalent among parents with higher education levels. It was also more prevalent among parents with three or more children and parents of Black children.
The children of these parents were less likely to get a flu shot or shots for other preventable illnesses, which the study authors said was concerning -- particularly ahead of the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine.
"Reducing vaccine hesitancy and increasing confidence in vaccinations could help improve vaccination coverage and thus protect children from disease," said lead author Tammy Santibanez, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Concerns about side-effects
Vaccine-hesitant parents often expressed concern about the long-term side effects of vaccines, but fewer than 15 percent of participants said they knew someone who had a long-term problem related to a vaccine.
The researchers recommended that parents have a conversation with their health care provider about the benefits of vaccination, both for individuals and communities. In some cases, parents may have read false information about vaccines through social media.
The lack of confidence in vaccines has been “exacerbated by social media,” said Dr. Michael Grosso, chief medical officer and chairman of pediatrics at Northwell Health's Huntington Hospital in New York. Grosso said social media misinformation can make it difficult for many people to “discern what is real and what is myth.”