Meeting News CoveragePerspective

Recent medical graduates more doubtful of immunizations vs. older counterparts

BOSTON — Overall support for immunization among health care workers remains high, but recent health care graduates’ perception of immunization benefits was lower compared with their older counterparts, according to study findings presented today during a press conference at the IDSA 49th Annual Meeting.

“As cohorts of parents who have not experienced vaccine-preventable diseases come of childbearing age, their support of vaccines may be less than a cohort of parents who grew up directly experiencing the high rates of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD, assistant professor at Emory University, said during the press conference.

Saad Omer
Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD

For the analysis, Omer and colleagues aimed to assess a “cohort effect” on immunization beliefs among 551 health care workers. The researchers administered a cross-sectional survey, stratified by medical experience and based upon year of graduation between the 1960s and the early 2000s.

Survey results indicated that younger providers were more likely to believe that immunizations “cause more harm than good.” Compared with older graduates, recent graduates were 15% less likely to believe that vaccines are efficacious and were less likely to believe that vaccines were safe.

“Our findings should be further investigated and replicated in other studies, with a potential policy implication of improved vaccine-related medical curricula and training,” Omer said.

“For a long time, we suspected this sort of thing,” Bruce Gellin, MD, MPH, director of the National Vaccine Program Office and deputy assistant secretary for health, said during the press conference. “As the familiarity with the disease goes away, we’re only hearing about the vaccines and do not often link up with what the vaccines are designed to do.

“In some ways, this mimics the situation in society at large, where young parents are not familiar with these diseases. When they think back, the immunizations that they received are different from what their children are getting now. It’s often the grandparents who step in and explain what these diseases are like,” Gellin said. “It’s a dynamic situation that reflects the power that the vaccines have had to make the diseases go away, which now questions the value to the people who are receiving them, as they do not understand how society has changed because of them.” – by Ashley DeNyse

For more information:

  • Omer SB. #324. Presented at: The IDSA 49th Annual Meeting; Oct. 20-23, 2011; Boston.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

PERSPECTIVE

James Brien
James H. Brien, DO

This study supports what I and many of my colleagues have observed over the last decade. The conclusion is that more recent (younger) providers are more inclined to either distrust vaccines or not believe that the diseases they prevent, or modify in their severity, are worth the risk. Not knowing the details of the survey, one cannot comment much further on the study, but I can say that I believe this is a failure of our medical education system. Having recognized this trend many years ago, I spend a significant amount of my teaching time on the history of vaccine-preventable diseases, supported by graphic visual examples of these diseases and their complications, as I'm sure most of my pediatric infectious diseases colleagues do as well. In order to redirect this trend, in my opinion, it must begin in the basic science years of medical school and reinforced on clinical rotations with primary providers, using evidence-based data from which to teach. Even though I had no direct experience with smallpox, diphtheria or tetanus growing up, I was nonetheless taught to respect the value of the vaccines that prevent these diseases and accept the occasional significant risk associated with them. Therefore, I don't believe that simply not having personal experience with a vaccine-preventable disease is needed to favor its prevention, but rather we have become complacent as educators.

– James H. Brien, DO

Infectious Disease News Editorial Board member

Disclosure: Dr. Brien reports no relevant financial disclosures.

Twitter Follow InfectiousDiseaseNews.com on Twitter.

BOSTON — Overall support for immunization among health care workers remains high, but recent health care graduates’ perception of immunization benefits was lower compared with their older counterparts, according to study findings presented today during a press conference at the IDSA 49th Annual Meeting.

“As cohorts of parents who have not experienced vaccine-preventable diseases come of childbearing age, their support of vaccines may be less than a cohort of parents who grew up directly experiencing the high rates of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD, assistant professor at Emory University, said during the press conference.

Saad Omer
Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD

For the analysis, Omer and colleagues aimed to assess a “cohort effect” on immunization beliefs among 551 health care workers. The researchers administered a cross-sectional survey, stratified by medical experience and based upon year of graduation between the 1960s and the early 2000s.

Survey results indicated that younger providers were more likely to believe that immunizations “cause more harm than good.” Compared with older graduates, recent graduates were 15% less likely to believe that vaccines are efficacious and were less likely to believe that vaccines were safe.

“Our findings should be further investigated and replicated in other studies, with a potential policy implication of improved vaccine-related medical curricula and training,” Omer said.

“For a long time, we suspected this sort of thing,” Bruce Gellin, MD, MPH, director of the National Vaccine Program Office and deputy assistant secretary for health, said during the press conference. “As the familiarity with the disease goes away, we’re only hearing about the vaccines and do not often link up with what the vaccines are designed to do.

“In some ways, this mimics the situation in society at large, where young parents are not familiar with these diseases. When they think back, the immunizations that they received are different from what their children are getting now. It’s often the grandparents who step in and explain what these diseases are like,” Gellin said. “It’s a dynamic situation that reflects the power that the vaccines have had to make the diseases go away, which now questions the value to the people who are receiving them, as they do not understand how society has changed because of them.” – by Ashley DeNyse

For more information:

  • Omer SB. #324. Presented at: The IDSA 49th Annual Meeting; Oct. 20-23, 2011; Boston.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

PERSPECTIVE

James Brien
James H. Brien, DO

This study supports what I and many of my colleagues have observed over the last decade. The conclusion is that more recent (younger) providers are more inclined to either distrust vaccines or not believe that the diseases they prevent, or modify in their severity, are worth the risk. Not knowing the details of the survey, one cannot comment much further on the study, but I can say that I believe this is a failure of our medical education system. Having recognized this trend many years ago, I spend a significant amount of my teaching time on the history of vaccine-preventable diseases, supported by graphic visual examples of these diseases and their complications, as I'm sure most of my pediatric infectious diseases colleagues do as well. In order to redirect this trend, in my opinion, it must begin in the basic science years of medical school and reinforced on clinical rotations with primary providers, using evidence-based data from which to teach. Even though I had no direct experience with smallpox, diphtheria or tetanus growing up, I was nonetheless taught to respect the value of the vaccines that prevent these diseases and accept the occasional significant risk associated with them. Therefore, I don't believe that simply not having personal experience with a vaccine-preventable disease is needed to favor its prevention, but rather we have become complacent as educators.

– James H. Brien, DO

Infectious Disease News Editorial Board member

Disclosure: Dr. Brien reports no relevant financial disclosures.

Twitter Follow InfectiousDiseaseNews.com on Twitter.

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