Each year in the U.S. 300 children die and thousands more fall ill from vaccine-preventable diseases.1
Parents who under-immunize, or fail to provide their child with the full recommended schedule of vaccines leave them vulnerable to illness unnecessarily.2
Common concerns over the safety of vaccines include the belief that too many immunizations are given at one time, the possibility of adverse reactions from the vaccines, and the fear autism could develop if the vaccines were given according to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommended schedule.3
Healthcare providers, especially nurses, play vital roles in the education of parents and in the administration of vaccines.
Immunizations have been so successful in disease prevention and health promotion parents can focus on the side effects of the vaccine and not the outcome of having the disease. As one study pointed out, “for many parents, immunizations have become a risk rather than a benefit.”3
When a child gets vaccinated, it protects the child, his family, his friends, his acquaintances, and the public at large. Herd immunity is when infants who are too young to be vaccinated, those with weakened immune systems (such as those with cancer or who have had transplants), and those who refuse immunizations are unlikely to be exposed to a disease because the majority of the population. If the number of people getting vaccinated drops, there are less people protected to surround those not protected and disease outbreaks can occur.4
The CDC reports that school entry vaccine coverage for most states is at or near national Healthy People 2020 targets of maintaining 95% vaccination coverage levels for two doses of MMR vaccine, four doses of DTaP vaccine, and two doses of varicella vaccine.5 However, low vaccination and high exemption levels can cluster within communities, increasing the risk.
What Nurses Need to Know
Nurses must be educated on the importance of vaccines and how to talk to parents who are reluctant to vaccinate.6 The top reasons reported for not fully vaccinating children are:
- vaccines are considered unsafe;
- vaccines are given for diseases that are not serious;
- vaccines are given for diseases their child is not likely to get;
- the vaccine schedule is too aggressive;
- children get more vaccines than is good for them;
- vaccines go against religious beliefs; and
- the child cannot receive vaccines due to immunosuppression.7
In addition to this, some parents under- immunize their children due to lack of resources or knowledge deficits.2
Lack of resources may include no insurance coverage, financial concerns, no transportation, immigration concerns, or language barriers. Many parents work and are unable to bring children in during regular office hours or have concerns over waiting too long to be seen.8
Being aware of vaccination barriers and how to overcome them, even if it just means extending office hours, can lead to more favorable outcomes.