WASHINGTON — A mother’s knowledge is power,
suggests the results of a new study presented here this week during the 45th
Annual National Immunization Conference.
Past studies have shown that it is the matriarch of the
household who is mostly responsible for making health care-related decisions.
Therefore, Carol J. Baker, MD, professor of pediatrics, Baylor College
of Medicine/Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research at Texas Children’s
Hospital, and colleagues decided to assess mothers’ attitudes toward
immunization and how to increase uptake.
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID)
research revealed that
influenza H1N1 motivated some mothers to get their
children vaccinated for influenza. However, barriers to vaccination remained,
so the NFID created the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition to try and
educate parents about the benefits of vaccines and encourage physicians to
eagerly advise parents to have their children immunized with influenza vaccine.
“Mothers need direction to wade through the
information overload that they got last year,” Baker said. “A
physician’s recommendation continues to motivate mothers to vaccinate
their children against influenza.”
For the study on mothers’ attitudes toward
influenza immunization, Baker, who is past president of NFID and current chair
of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and colleagues conducted a
national telephone survey in August among 709 mothers living with children aged
6 months to 18 years.
The data indicated that 80% of mothers reported no
change in 2010 in intent to vaccinate their children against influenza. Mothers
who changed their mind were eight times more likely to choose to immunize
rather than not to immunize. Sixteen percent of mothers surveyed said they were
more likely this year compared with past years to get their child vaccinated
against flu, and this number rose to 22% in Hispanic mothers.
“What we don’t know is how many of these
mothers actually went on to have their children immunized,” Baker said.
“But it’s encouraging to see these positive changes in
The findings also indicated that most (75%) mothers were
aware of the new ACIP recommendations to immunize everyone aged 6 months and
older (unless contraindicated). Those who were aware were more likely to
immunize, correlating with higher vaccination intent. When mothers were asked
to cite the most important reason for immunizing their children against
influenza, protecting others was the top choice. Messages emphasizing vaccine
safety, disease severity and family protection were the most motivating reasons
across all ethnicities.
Barriers to immunization included that mothers may not
understand how vaccination works to protect their children. The survey data
showed that the pediatrician left the decision to vaccinate up to them, and
they decided not to immunize.
More than three in four non-vaccinating mothers (77%)
cited absence of strong pediatrician recommendation as a reason; pediatricians
were the “first choice” for influenza vaccination information among
69% of mothers.
“This shows the negative influence of
pediatricians,” Baker said. “If they don’t make a recommendation
to vaccinate or they leave the decision up to the parents, it can be a negative
The study reported that additional barriers to
immunization persist, which include concerns over vaccine safety,
misinformation and myths that vaccination is unnecessary for healthy children
and belief that influenza is a mild illness.
“Of interest, African-American mothers were more
likely to cite not wanting to put unknown substances in their child’s
body, or the belief that their children are healthy and don’t need the
vaccine, compared with white or Hispanic mothers,” Baker said. “All
members of the health care community need to be more proactive in recommending
flu vaccination. We need to provide simple to understand, timely information
about safety of vaccine. This is insight into ethnic. We need to take into
account with whom we are speaking with and provide proper messages.”
“Despite an encouraging link between universal
recommendation awareness and positive intent, strong pediatrician
recommendation and debunking of lingering myths will be critical to ensure
vaccination,” the researchers concluded. “Findings are being
integrated into strategic messaging and creative communications to educate
parents and harness health care professionals’ influence.”
The study was supported partially by a grant from
For more information on the new NFID program, go to
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