OBJECTIVES:

To assess among US physicians (1) frequency of requests to spread out recommended vaccination schedule for children <2 years, (2) attitudes regarding such requests, and (3) strategies used and perceived effectiveness in response to such requests.

METHODS:

An e-mail and mail survey of a nationally representative sample of pediatricians and family physicians from June 2012 through October 2012.

RESULTS:

The response rate was 66% (534 of 815). In a typical month, 93% reported some parents of children <2 years requested to spread out vaccines; 21% reported ≥10% of parents made this request. Most respondents thought these parents were putting their children at risk for disease (87%) and that it was more painful for children (84%), but if they agreed to requests, it would build trust with families (82%); further, they believed that if they did not agree, families might leave their practice (80%). Forty percent reported this issue had decreased their job satisfaction. Most agreed to spread out vaccines when requested, either often/always (37%) or sometimes (37%); 2% would often/always, 4% would sometimes, and 12% would rarely dismiss families from their practice if they wanted to spread out the primary series. Physicians reported using a variety of strategies in response to requests but did not think they were effective.

CONCLUSIONS:

Virtually all providers encounter requests to spread out vaccines in a typical month and, despite concerns, most are agreeing to do so. Providers are using many strategies in response but think few are effective. Evidence-based interventions to increase timely immunization are needed to guide primary care and public health practice.

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