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1-in-7 parents haven’t talked with child’s doc about vaccines for two years

child receiving vaccine
A new poll asked 1,483 parents about the discussion they’ve had with their childrens’ doctors in the past two years. (Shutterstock)
  • The goal of a recent poll was to find out more about parents’ vaccine conversations with their child’s doctor
  • 1-in-7 parents said they haven’t discussed vaccines with their child’s doctor in the past two years 
  • A few parents reported they avoided doctors so they wouldn’t have to talk about vaccines

One-in-seven U.S. parents say they have not spoken with their child’s primary care doctor about any vaccines over the past two years, according to a new poll.

A small subset might even be avoiding their doctor’s office altogether, unwilling to have a possible discussion over vaccines, according to the newest C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at University of Michigan Health.

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In August and September, the poll surveyed 1,483 U.S. parents with at least one child aged 6 to 18 years old. The results, said Sarah Clark, co-director of the poll, are “shocking.”

Related: 

The goal of the survey, Clark said, was geared less toward learning about parents’ decision on whether to vaccinate their children than about whether they were even holding a discussion: “Parents should absolutely have questions.” 

Among them, she suggested: What is the benefit of this vaccine? Is there a risk? Should my child wait?

To be clear, some parents may have opted to get vaccines and vaccine information from, say, a health department instead, Clark said.

Sarah Clark headshot
Some parents have skipped vaccine discussions with their children’s health care provider over the past two years — a revelation that Sarah Clark, co-director of a University of Michigan-based national parents poll, called “shocking.” (Courtesy photo)

In Michigan, just one-in-four children ages 15 and under are fully vaccinated against COVID. Meanwhile, regular school vaccinations for preventable illnesses such as measels, chicken pox and polio are dropping, and waivers from vaccine requirements are increasing.

Clark said it may be that doctors are less inclined to talk about vaccines if they don’t offer them on site, “disaggregating” discussion about vaccines from their actual administration, she said.

Not all doctor’s offices keep vaccines on hand.

“The best things happen when we keep that process together,” Clark said.

Just as startling was that a few parents — 3 percent — reported delaying or skipping a healthcare visit altogether for their child to avoid talking about vaccines, according to the Mott poll.

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“Some parents may feel that their child’s regular doctor will be insulted or irritated if they ask questions or express concerns about vaccinating their child,” Mott said in a news release explaining the poll’s findings. 

Dr. Dennis Cunningham, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Henry Ford Health, said he also was surprised at the results.

Dennis Cunningham
It might be that some parents have skipped well checks in recent years, said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Henry Ford Health. (Courtesy photo)

Henry Ford doctors routinely check children’s immunization records on the Michigan Care Improvement Registry during well visits to make sure a child’s vaccinations are up-to-date and open discussions with parents, he said.

“I worry: Are parents not coming to the doctors for preventative care? Are they just coming for sick visits?” he said.

Among the other findings of the Mott Poll:

  • About 80 percent of parents said a doctor or another health provider had discussed shots required for school; 68 percent said flu shots were discussed; 57 percent, COVID vaccines were discussed.
  • Among parents who talked with their child’s regular doctor about flu or COVID vaccines, 70 percent said they learned information that helped in their decision-making.
  • A quarter of parents described problems getting vaccines for their child over the past two years, such as having to go to another location or problems scheduling appointments.

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