Survey: Vaccines Confuse Parents

Thursday, November 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) — A sizable number of parents have misconceptions about vaccines, with many believing that too many immunizations can weaken their children's ability to fight diseases, a survey found.

About one-fourth of parents surveyed said children get too many immunizations, according to the telephone survey of 1,600 parents of young children across the nation. The results are published in next month's edition of Pediatrics.

The findings suggest that some parents might withhold vaccines, ``needlessly placing their child — and their community — at risk for outbreaks of infectious disease,'' said Dr. Bruce Gellin of Vanderbilt University, who led the study and presented the findings Monday at the American Academy of Pediatrics' annual meeting.

Gellin heads the newly formed National Network for Immunization Information, formed by the academy and three other medical groups to provide parents clear information about immunizations.

Suzanne Walther, a Murfreesboro, Tenn., mother of three, didn't get her two-month-old daughter the usual vaccines — including the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine, which protects against a potentially fatal form of meningitis. When the infant was 11 months old, she contracted the disease, the first seen at Vanderbilt University in eight years.

Though her daughter recovered, the experience turned Walther into a vaccine believer.

She said she had been a skeptic partly because she never knew anyone with polio, measles or Hib, once-feared diseases that have been tamed by vaccines.

Such thinking by younger parents and pediatricians who haven't lived through epidemics may explain why some undervalue the need for vaccines, said Dr. Samuel Katz, NNII's co-chairman and professor emeritus at Duke University.

Polio has been virtually eradicated in this country, but is still a problem in some parts of Africa and India — and could still pose a threat, Katz said.

``They're no further than a jet plane away,'' he said.

Katz also said misconceptions abound. Measles vaccines have linked to autism, for example, and hepatitis B vaccines to multiple sclerosis — myths perpetuated in part by erroneous information on the Internet, Katz said.


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