Background: According to the 2002 National Immunization Survey (NIS), vaccination coverage with recommended vaccines among U.S. children aged 19 to 35 months remained near all-time highs. Sustaining this high coverage requires significant effort, including consideration of parental vaccine safety concerns that have led to decreasing coverage in other countries.
Methods: The Parental Knowledge and Experiences module was administered to a random subset of NIS respondents from July 2001 to December 2002. The module included questions regarding attitudes toward vaccine safety and side effects, simultaneous vaccine administration, and acceptance of new vaccines. Multivariate logistic regression analyses examined associations between attitudes and up-to-date (UTD) vaccination coverage (four or more doses of diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and pertussis vaccine, three or more doses of poliovirus vaccine, one or more doses of any measles-containing vaccine, three or more doses of Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine, and three or more doses of hepatitis B vaccine), while controlling for demographics.
Results: Ninety-three percent of parents rated vaccines as safe, 6% as neither safe nor unsafe, and 1% as unsafe. After adjusting for demographics, parental safety belief was significantly associated with the child's vaccination status. For children whose parents believed vaccines are safe, the odds of being UTD were 2.9 times the odds of being UTD for children of parents who believed vaccines are unsafe (75% vs 53%, respectively). Children whose parents were neutral about the safety of vaccines had vaccination coverage similar to children whose parents believed vaccines are unsafe.
Conclusions: A significant association with vaccine coverage was found for a small group of parents with high vaccine safety concerns. Strategies focused on safety concerns may yield better protection for these children.