Back in December, I reported that staunchly pro-vaccination doctors were agreeing to bend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended vaccination schedule for shot-wary parents.
For that story, Santa Monica pediatrician Dr. Marcy Hardart estimated that about one out of every five families she saw asked to delay the vaccination schedule. Hardart told me parents would ask her:
"Can’t we start later?"…Do we have to do all of them at once? Can we spread them out?"
I reported that more and more doctors were complying with such requests, in the hopes that children would eventually become fully vaccinated.
I wrote that it was nearly impossible to determine how widespread these alternative vaccination schedules were, since the state doesn’t begin tracking immunizations until kids enter childcare or kindergarten.
Now, a survey of more than 500 pediatricians and family physicians published in Pediatrics offers some great insights into how frequently doctors get requests to spread out the vaccination schedule, what’s driving these requests, and how doctors are responding.
Here are some highlights:
- A huge majority of physicians - 93 percent - reported that some parents of kids younger than two years old requested spreading out vaccines in a typical month. Compared with the previous year, 23 percent of doctors said they received more requests to spread out the schedule, and 62 percent said the number of requests hadn't changed.
- A vast majority – 87 percent – said that parents who choose to spread out vaccines are putting their children at risk for contracting infectious diseases. Yet, 82 percent believed that if they agreed to bend the schedule, it would build trust with families; if they didn’t, 80 percent said families might leave their practice.
- When asked about factors influencing parents' request to spread out the vaccination schedule, 63 percent of pediatricians said concerns that children will suffer long-term consequences from vaccines contributed "a lot," and 48 percent said parents' belief that their children are unlikely to get a vaccine-preventable disease contributed "a lot."
- When it comes to persuading parents to follow the recommended vaccination schedule, just 20 percent of doctors considered it "very effective" to tell parents that they would vaccinate their own kids according to the schedule. Other strategies were rated even less effective.
- These discussions are taking a lot of time: 57 percent of pediatricians said they spend more than 10 minutes discussing vaccines with concerned parents; 54 percent of pediatricians said spreading out vaccines created extra work for the practice.
If you're a pediatrician, tell us: Do these findings reflect your experience with families who want to alter the recommended vaccination schedule? Which strategies have you employed to convince parents to adhere to the schedule? Let us know in the comments section below, or e-mail us at Impatient@scpr.org.