Physicians spend more time addressing parents' vaccine concerns

April 29, 2011

Parental concerns about the safety of vaccines have increased over the last 5 years, and vaccine refusals and requests to delay vaccines also have risen.

Parental concerns about the safety of vaccines have increased over the last 5 years, and vaccine refusals and requests to delay vaccines also have risen.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers surveyed 2 national networks of primary care physicians in 2009 about childhood vaccines; 366 pediatricians and 330 family medicine (FM) physicians responded.

Some 43% of physicians indicated that parental concern about vaccines had greatly increased compared with 5 years ago; 28% reported that it had risen moderately; and 29% said that it had remained the same or had actually lessened.

Eight percent of physicians indicated that in an average month at least 10% of parents refused a vaccine, and 20% of physicians said that at least 10% of parents wanted to spread out vaccines. Nearly 65% of the physicians surveyed said they would spread out vaccines at least sometimes. More than half of pediatricians and 31% of FM physicians had parents sign a form if vaccination was refused.

The most frequent barrier to discussing vaccinations was the time it took. More than half of physicians said that they spent 10 to 19 minutes talking to parents who had substantial concerns about vaccines, and 8% said they spent 20 or more minutes discussing vaccines.

Pediatricians reported less job satisfaction because of parental concerns about vaccines than FM physicians (46% vs 21%, respectively). The most effective ways physicians convinced skeptical parents to get their children vaccinated included statements about what they would do for their own children or about vaccine safety experiences among their own patients.

This study has important implications, say the researchers. “Given the difficulties physicians have providing anticipatory guidance on all the subjects recommended for routine pediatric care within the short duration of a well child visit, the amount of time they spend discussing vaccines may limit discussion of other preventive topics,” they write.

Kempe A, Daley MF, McCauley MM, et al. Prevalence of parental concerns about childhood vaccines. The experience of primary care physicians. Am J Prev Med. 2011;40(5):548-555.