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The Reason Why 1/3 of Parents Aren't Getting Their Kids Flu Shots Is Surprising

Photograph by Twenty20

A new poll is trying to get to the bottom of why some parents get their kids a flu vaccine and others skip the shot—and the results might just surprise you. According to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, more than one-third of all parents have decided not to get their kids vaccinated because of an "echo chamber" of misinformation. The poll found that many parents said they base their decision on whether or not to get the shot on what they read and hear vs. the recommendation of their child's health care provider.

According to the results of the poll, which were published on November 19, parents who are not planning to get their kids a flu shot for the 2018-19 winter season made their decision based on a limited range of information.

The annual flu vaccination is recommended for all children 6 months or older, although the rates of flu vaccinations for kids are often lower than other childhood vaccinations. Even though two-thirds of parents said that they would get their kids vaccinated, a whopping 34 percent said they had no plan to do so.

For the study, researchers interviewed more than 1,977 parents with kids ages 1 to 18 years old, and 38 percent said they would make their own decisions based on what they read or hear. But these are often not the recommendations of medical professionals.

“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,” explained poll co-director Sarah Clark. “Without clear guidance from the provider, parents may be left with misinformation, such as the suggestion that flu vaccine causes the flu.”

Without clear guidance from the provider, parents may be left with misinformation, such as the suggestion that flu vaccine causes the flu.

Parents who reported that they would not base their decision on what their doctors said explained that their friends and family members often made them question the vaccine or convinced them not to get the vaccine at all.

These same parents also reported that they often had more than seven times the number of sources that made them question or not want the vaccine. They explained that the sheer amount of negative information they'd gotten made them less willing to change their minds about getting the shot.

"There appears to be an echo chamber around flu vaccine,” Clark said. “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.”

Clark explained that there could be several reasons for this "echo chamber" effect, including parents seeking out sources that align with the beliefs they already have about flu vaccines and that these parents might "selectively remember" the sources that confirmed their beliefs.

“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,” said Clark. “For these families, we need to explore other mechanisms to convey accurate information and allow parents to hear a more balanced viewpoint.”

Last flu season, a record number of kids died from influenza. More than 180 died, and approximately 80 percent of those kids had not received the flu vaccine.

This post was originally published on Mom.me sister site CafeMom.