One-third of US parents plan to skip flu shots for their kids this season

Thirty-four percent of US parents said their child was unlikely to get the flu vaccine this year, according to a report published Monday by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

The online poll, which was administered in October, looked at 1,977 parents who had at least one child, whether parents would get their children the flu vaccine and their reasoning, among other things.

Of parents polled, 48% said they usually followed the recommendations of their child’s health care provider when making choices about the flu vaccine.

However, 21% of those surveyed did not remember their health care provider making a recommendation about their child receiving the flu shot.

“To me, the biggest takeaway is that there is a group of parents who look like they have a gap in expert guidance around whether kids should get flu vaccines, specifically whether their kid should get flu vaccine,” said Sarah Clark, co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan.

Parents who were making the choice to get their child vaccinated reported hearing more positive than negative comments, by a margin of about 4 to 1, whereas those who chose not to vaccinate their children heard a lot more negative commentary, Clark said.

During the last flu season, 179 children died, with hundreds hospitalized due to flu-related illnesses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also reported that 80% of the children who died were unvaccinated.

The CDC said last flu season, 57.9% of children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years received flu vaccines, less than the year before. Approximately 155.3 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed to people of all ages last season.

“We don’t give the flu vaccine the credit it deserves,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“The vaccine is not perfect, none of us believe it is, but it’s the best thing we have for preventing influenza, and even if it doesn’t prevent the illness completely, and this is very important, it tends to make the illness milder,” said Schaffner, who was not involved in the new report.

Some of the reasons parents give for not vaccinating their children include being too busy and not getting strong recommendations from their medical providers, according to Schaffner.

In the poll, the top three reasons parents cited for not getting their children vaccinated, according to Clark, were that they were concerned about side effects, that it doesn’t work very well and that their currently healthy child does not need to be vaccinated.