by Kate Raines
The number of parents questioning the wisdom of the currently recommended schedule is up and corroboration is easy to find.1 An article in the journal Pediatrics in August 2016 reported that the number of pediatricians encountering parents who either question vaccine safety or refuse one or more vaccines or want to use an alternative vaccination schedule for their children increased from just under 75 percent in 2006 to 87 percent by 2013.2
A study from the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics3 reported that the primary reasons given for vaccine hesitancy or refusal of one or more recommended vaccinations include concern over pain associated with multiple injections (44 percent); too many vaccines given at one time (34 percent); the possibility of vaccines causing autism or other learning disabilities (26 percent, down from the 2006 survey); concern that there is an association between vaccines and chronic illnesses (13.5 percent); and lack of adequate safety studies (13.2 percent). Some parents also are questioning whether so many childhood vaccines are necessary (up from the 2006 survey), and whether experience with natural disease is better for children than repeated artificial manipulation of the immune system by vaccinations.
Overall, fewer parents are focused specifically on fears of autism compared with a few years ago. Instead, parents are expressing broader concerns such as the potential effects on immune system function, worries over how the injection of so many toxins may affect their child’s well-being long term, lack of adequate vaccine safety studies, and protection of parental rights to make informed medical decisions for their children.4
The general consensus that vaccine hesitancy is on the rise has spawned a host articles in the medical literature and in the media about how to “fix the problem.” Many doctors and and health care professionals have serious questions themselves and agree that vaccine decisions should be left to parents, but a far more common position holds that parents should not have the final say on vaccine decisions and that it is a societal obligation for doctors to change the mind of anyone who disagrees with current vaccine recommendations. A quick Google search of “vaccine hesitancy” turns up mountains of advice on how to persuade so-called “misinformed” or “confused” parents to change their minds and get with the program.
From tired old references to the “debunked” notion that vaccines cause autism to condescending suggestions for educating, incentivizing or coercing reluctant patients or parents to accept all recommended vaccines, it can be intimidating to even admit to having questions about vaccination. It may help to know what to expect and to recognize pressure strategies that may be used.