A poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI, found that 34 percent of parents planned on forgoing flu shots for their kids for the 2018-2019 Winter season.
Although the online survey only considered a small amount of parents with children between the ages of 1 and 18 — 1,977 moms and dads to be exact — the results are startling. Sarah Clark, the poll's codirector, said that misinformation surrounding the flu vaccine likely plays a part in the trend.
"Child health providers are a critical source of information to explain the rationale for annual flu vaccination and to address parents' questions about flu vaccine safety and effectiveness," she said. "Without clear guidance from the provider, parents may be left with misinformation, such as the suggestion that the flu vaccine causes the flu."
"For these families, we need to explore other mechanisms to convey accurate information and allow parents to hear a more balanced viewpoint."
According to the survey, four out of 10 participants said that "they base their decisions about the flu vaccine on what they read and hear" and the info they're getting might not be correct. Parents who declined to get their kids the flu shot quoted on average seven more "sources" supporting why they question the shot's effectiveness.
Sarah believes that goes to show just how much misinformation about the flu shot is out there.
"There appears to be an echo chamber around flu vaccine," said Sarah. "Parents who are not choosing flu vaccination for their child report hearing or reading opinions that question or oppose the vaccine. At the same time, parents who decided their child will get flu vaccine report opinions that largely support vaccination."
It's critical to ensure now more than ever that moms and dads are getting the correct information about flu shots and other vaccinations.
"It's important to acknowledge that for some parents, child health providers are not the sole influence, or even the primary influence, on decisions about the flu vaccine," explained Sarah. "For these families, we need to explore other mechanisms to convey accurate information and allow parents to hear a more balanced viewpoint."
The CDC recommends that every healthy person over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot for the 2018-2019 season. The website also says that, "[The flu shot] can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. [The] flu vaccine also has been shown to be life-saving in children."