Vaccine hesitancy impacts flu shot coverage


Vaccine hesitancy has led to reductions in many childhood vaccines. A report offers insight into how it impacts influenza vaccination.

Vaccine hesitancy has been one of the major issue faced by pediatric providers and the flu shot is one of the vaccines that may be frequently skipped by parents. A report in Pediatrics looks at the link between vaccine hesitancy and influenza vaccination coverage.1

Researchers looked at answers to 6 questions about vaccine hesitancy in the 2018 and 2019 National Immunization Survey-Flu, which was a telephone survey deployed to households with children aged 6 months to 17 years. The questions included in the survey were:

(1) Is your child administered vaccines following a standard schedule, or some other schedule, such as the Sears Schedule?

(2) Overall, how hesitant about childhood shots would you consider yourself to be? Would you say not at all hesitant, not that hesitant, somewhat hesitant, or very hesitant?

(3) Did concerns about the number of vaccines your child gets at one time impact your decision to get your child vaccinated?

(4) Did concerns about serious, long-term side effects impact your decision to get your child vaccinated?

(5) Do you personally know anyone who has had a serious, long-term side effect from a vaccine?

(6) Is your child’s doctor or health care provider your most trusted source of information about childhood vaccines?

The investigators found that the number of parents who reported being “hesitant about childhood shots” was 25.8% in 2018 and 19.5% in 2019. Additionally, the prevalence of parental concern about serious, long-term side effects impacting the decision to vaccinate a child was 27.3% in 2018 and 21.7% in 2019 and concern about the number of vaccines a child gets at one time impacting whether a child was vaccinated was 22.8% in 2018 and 19.1% in 2019. The researchers found only small differences in vaccine hesitancy when looking at sociodemographic variables, except among Black parents who had an 11.9 percentage point higher prevalence of “hesitant about childhood shots” and 9.9 percentage point higher prevalence of concerns about serious, long-term side effects when compared to white parents. The children who had parents who reported being hesitant about childhood shots were found to have 26 percentage points lower influenza vaccination coverage than children with parents who didn’t express hesitancy. This was true in both flu seasons that the survey ran.

Researchers concluded that 1 in 5 children in the United States had a parent who expressed vaccine hesitancy and this hesitancy had a negative impact on childhood influenza vaccination.


1. Santibanez T, Nguyen K, Greby S, et al. Parental vaccine hesitancy and childhood influenza vaccination. Pediatrics. November 9, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1542/peds.2020-007609

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