In the midst of a pandemic with the fall and winter seasons upon us, the fear of a “twin-demic” involving increasing cases of both COVID-19 and influenza are of critical concern. Will there be enough resources to provide care for these two serious illnesses and will some patients actually get both at the same time? The reason to vaccinate against influenza while we await the availability of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine has never been so important. Yet, there is a significant amount of vaccine hesitancy. How much is there? To answer that question, Santibanez et al (10.1542/peds.2020-007609) examined the 2018 and 2019 National Immunization Survey on Influenza (NIS-Flu), which included a 6-question survey on vaccine hesitancy. Their results are shared in detail in a study we are early releasing this month in our journal. Over 35,000 parents were surveyed to determine if they were vaccine hesitant, why that might be, and whether they had vaccinated their child over the past year to influenza. The results are concerning to say the least.
Overall, nearly 26% of survey respondents in 2018 and 20% in 2019 reported they were vaccine hesitant. The authors identify a key reason for this hesitancy is worrying about long-term side effects, reported by 27% of vaccine hesitant parents in 2018, and admittedly was the reason for their hesitancy, dropping down to 22% in 2019. What is even more concerning? The prevalence of having a child receive their influenza vaccine was 26% less for parents who were vaccine hesitant than for parents of children who were not vaccine hesitant. Not surprisingly, states with high rates of vaccine hesitant parents have lower influenza vaccination rates.
The authors discuss the important role we play in educating families about the benefit of vaccines and having the critical supportive versus confrontational conversations that will build trust and result in vaccine hesitant parents becoming less hesitant to vaccinate their children against influenza. If we want to avoid an outbreak of influenza in our communities, we must talk with our patients now and use the tools and communication strategies offered by organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to improve the vaccination rates for children and adults. Link to this important study and learn more.