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Pediatric Vaccination Adherence Hinges on Parental Vaccination Status

Parent and child vaccination behaviors may be linked, with new findings showing that the likelihood of pediatric vaccination adherence doubled when parents received a flu vaccine themselves.

A new study from the Oregon Health & Science University suggests that pediatric vaccination adherence is strongly related to parental vaccination status. These findings may be an answer to quell low routine vaccination uptake after the pandemic sparked the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccination.

During the 2021-22 flu season, only 58 percent of children were vaccinated against the virus, almost six percentage points lower than in 2019 to 2020, right before the pandemic began, according to CDC data.

Given the lack of exposure to flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) over the past two years, children and adults have reduced population immunity headed into the current flu season. Reports are already noting that as vaccination rates decrease, respiratory viruses surge among children across the United States.

The report, published in Vaccine, used EHR data across 16 states to identify any additional factors associated with receiving vaccines that could help increase pediatric vaccination rates.

The findings showed that a higher percentage of children were fully vaccinated if their parent or parents received a flu vaccine, too.

Specifically, children with two parents that received a flu vaccine had more than twice the odds of being fully vaccinated by the age of two compared with children whose parents did not receive a flu vaccine. 

“We know that there are certain factors that hinder children from receiving routine vaccinations, which puts them at risk of serious illness or even death from diseases, many of which are entirely preventable,” Heather Angier, PhD, MPH, affiliate assistant professor of family medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine, said in a press release.

“This research is important because having a deeper understanding of factors that affect this issue, including parents’ beliefs about vaccines and their vaccination status, is key to increasing vaccination rates among children,” Angier added.

In the past, the healthcare industry has addressed pediatric vaccination adherence by combatting misinformation, social determinants of health, vaccine hesitancy, and poor provider communication.

However, Angier said the findings add another strategy to providers’ arsenal. Increasing efforts to vaccinate parents themselves could consequently increase childhood vaccination uptake.

Past studies have shown that providers can significantly influence COVID-19 vaccine acceptance since patients highly value provider recommendations during their vaccine decision-making.

Healthcare providers remain among the most trusted messengers for vaccine information and have been instrumental in encouraging the most reticent adults to take the vaccines themselves.

Additionally, these conversations must be rooted in empathy. Instead of shaming vaccine-hesitant parents, clinicians should acknowledge guardians’ fears and outline the safety, efficacy, and risks for not getting the vaccine.

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