Nearly 20% of U.S. children have a parent who is hesitant about childhood vaccines, and these children are significantly less likely to receive a flu vaccine, according to a new study.
The findings come as health officials warn about both flu and COVID-19 circulating and follow a flu season that set records for pediatric deaths and hospitalizations.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studied data from the 2018 and 2019 National Immunization Survey-Flu, which included questions about parents’ vaccine hesitancy. Results were published today in “Parental Vaccine Hesitancy and Childhood Influenza Vaccination,” (Santibanez TA, et al. Pediatrics. Nov. 9, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-007609).
The study found:
Black parents were significantly more likely than White parents to be hesitant about childhood vaccination and side effects, according to the study.
During the 2018-’19 season, about 41% of children with vaccine-hesitant parents received a flu vaccine compared to 67% of children whose parents were not vaccine-hesitant. The difference was nearly the same the year before.
The findings follow a 2019-’20 season in which 195 children died of flu, a new record for a regular flu season. Hospitalization rates for children 4 and under were at a record high, even surpassing the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and rates for children ages 5-17 were higher than any recent regular season.
“Consistently monitoring changes in VH (vaccine hesitancy), including socioeconomic differences in VH, could inform immunization programs in targeting interventions, provide resources to facilitate provider-patient vaccine conversations, and ultimately increase confidence in vaccinations and improve vaccination coverage to protect children from disease,” authors wrote. Their conclusions do not necessarily represent the official position of the CDC.