Vaccinations: Weighing the Pros and Cons
Vaccinations have prevented and nearly eliminated many serious diseases and have been one of the greatest advances in medicine to this day. In the article “Vaccine Hesitancy: Causes, Consequences, and a Call to Action,” the authors address what “vaccine hesitancy” is, what the causes of it are, the prevalence of vaccination concerns, and what can be done to improve vaccination confidence (Salmon et al. 391).
Vaccine hesitancy refers to the uncertainty that may come with the decision to vaccinate oneself or one’s children (Salmon et al. 391). This also refers to people who have concerns about vaccinations but still proceed to fully vaccinate themselves and their children because they still acknowledge the importance of keeping their children safe from contagious and deadly diseases (Salmon et al. 391). Serious and immediate risks accompany vaccine postponement or refusal; on the other hand, vaccinating on time despite apprehensions can leave a person susceptible to being misinformed, which could then lead to one refusing vaccinations in the future (Salmon et al. 392).
Among parents and other concerned individuals, it seems that there is a wide range of contributing factors influencing vaccine hesitancy (Salmon et al. 392). Because vaccines have successfully controlled diseases that were once rampant, parents are not familiar with these diseases (Salmon et al. 392). Their fear is due to their assumptions that vaccines are causing the health problems that commonly arise around the same time in a child’s life that the vaccines are given, such as allergies, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases (Salmon et al. 392). Heuristics can also impact a person’s perception of risk thus adding to concerns (Salmon et al. 392). Because the nature of adverse vaccine reactions is unpredictable accompanied with the anguish it causes parents to watch their child receive numerous injections, parents chose not to vaccinate their children and face the health risks due to disease rather than as a result of vaccination (Salmon et al. 392).
According to the most recent survey conducted in 2010 asking a panel of parents with children ages 1-6, 77% of the parents expressed they had concerns with vaccinating their children (Salmon et al. 393). While most concerns were minor, some parents had serious fears such as the number of vaccines given in the first two years of a child’s life (34%), vaccines causing disabilities (30%), the possibility of unsafe vaccine ingredients (26%), and the safety of the vaccines not being thoroughly tested (17%) (Salmon et al. 393). Only 5% of parents said they choose to selectively vaccinate, and 2% of parents reported forgoing all vaccinations for their children (Salmon et al. 393). In order to improve the measurement of vaccine hesitancy in the future, a standardized series of survey questions that have been “field tested and validated” could be useful in collecting data (Salmon et al. 393).
One approach to help decrease vaccine hesitancy would be to have an intervention with parents, ideally first-time pregnant women because strong views towards vaccinations are not yet formed (Salmon et al. 396). Also, reimbursement for pediatricians for talking about vaccine risks with parents would reduce a pediatrician’s financial disincentive and would increase sufficient communication (Salmon et al. 396). The possibilities for vaccines to be successful in saving lives and money has never been greater; however, that potential is directly dependent on the approval and acceptance of parents (Salmon et al. 396).
Salmon, Daniel A., Matthew Z. Dudley, Jason M. Glanz, and Saad B. Omer. "Vaccine Hesitancy: Causes, Consequences, and a Call to Action." American Journal of Preventive Medicine 49 (2015): 391-98. Web of Science. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.