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The Biggest Influence on a Mother's Decision to Vaccinate Her Child May Surprise You

When reporting the immunization timeliness of the children based on the type of information their mothers received, the authors reported, “compared with infants of women who received no immunization information (71% immunized on-time), infants of women who received discouraging information only (57% immunized on time, OR = 0.49, 95% CI 0.38–0.64) or encouraging and discouraging information (61% immunized on time, OR = 0.51, 95% CI 0.42–0.63) were at decreased odds of receiving all immunizations on time. Receipt of encouraging information only was not associated with infant immunization timeliness (73% immunized on time, OR = 1.00, 95% CI 0.87–1.15).”

Dr. Grant remarked on these results in the press release, stating that he was, “surprised and disappointed that encouraging information had no positive influence,” as evidence by the similar rates of on-time immunizations in both the encouraged and ‘no information’ groups. However, those women who received both types of information, or only negative information can be educated further to yield better results.

To this end, Dr. Grant added, “We have to do a particularly better job of encouraging immunization for the infants of future parents who have received discouraging information about immunization.” In an email interview with Contagion®, Dr. Grant provided some suggestions on how practitioners can improve their methods through the following techniques, stating that practitioners should, “discuss infant immunization with every future parent: both the moms and their partners. The partners are important. A larger proportion of them are undecided about infant immunization before the child is born and so they need to be better informed. [In addition,] ask future parents what information they have already received and specifically if they have received any discouraging information. If they have received discouraging information, discuss this with your patients and ensure that you answer all questions, concerns, and uncertainties that this information has caused in the parents.”

Paul Offit, MD, director, Vaccine Information Center, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, acknowledged in the press release that this is easier said than done. “It's much easier to scare people than to unscare them. The autism story proves that,” referring to “one poorly done study that was later retracted led to 17 studies in seven countries, costing tens of millions of dollars that showed no greater risk of autism in kids who received the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.”

According to Dr. Offit, younger physicians who have never seen or experienced many of the diseases vaccines protect against may also contribute to the lack of urgent necessity to receive vaccines on time.

“I'm an older physician. I've had measles. I've had mumps. Today, if a child comes in with one of those diseases, younger doctors haven't seen it and often call for me to confirm the diagnosis," Offit said in the press release. "So, young doctors may not be as compelled to argue for vaccines. They haven't seen these diseases, so they may not be great advocates for vaccines.”

When Contagion® asked Dr. Grant what could be done to help assuage this issue, he remarked that young practitioners are “fortunate not to have seen [these infections] because they are horrible diseases and watching children experience them is distressing; [however,] there are excellent resources available [for these practitioners] through the American Academy of Pediatrics which describe these diseases very graphically.”
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