Press Release

Embargoed Until Contact

June 09, 2011
12:01 AM PST

Sue Ducat
Director of Communications
(301) 841-9962


U.S. Children Are Getting Vaccinated In Record Numbers, But Parents Still Have Worries: New Survey


Researchers show more needs to be done to equip providers and parents with evidence about the major benefits and low risks of vaccines


Bethesda, MD -- Most children in the United States are getting regularly scheduled immunizations for infant and childhood diseases. But a new survey published in the June Health Affairs shows that some parents remain unpersuaded that all vaccines are safe or even necessary.


The results of the survey, analyzed by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Vaccine Program Office, suggest that more should be done to address parents' concerns. "The good news is that almost all parents are getting their children vaccinated. But that doesn't necessarily mean all parents have a high level of confidence in those vaccines," says lead author Allison Kennedy, an epidemiologist in CDC's Immunization Services Division. "These findings point us toward what we need to focus on to better answer questions and concerns parents have about why immunization is important."


Kennedy says parental education should include thorough explanations as to why infant immunizations should occur before age two. "That is when children are very vulnerable to contracting severe disease," says Kennedy. As to other concerns voiced by some parents about vaccine safety, she adds that "There is no credible evidence that vaccines are associated with learning disabilities, including autism."



Using data from the 2010 HealthStyles survey--conducted annually by Porter Novelli--Kennedy and co-authors surveyed 376 households and examined parental vaccine behaviors, attitudes, concerns, and what sources of information they rely on to learn about vaccines.


Although 23 percent of parents reported that they had no concern about vaccines, most parents reported at least one question or concern regarding


  • children suffering physical pain from shots
  • children getting too many shots in one visit
  • children getting too many vaccines before age two, and
  • children receiving vaccines containing unsafe ingredients


Parents also questioned whether vaccines were tested enough, if they might cause chronic disease, or would be administered to prevent diseases their children were unlikely to get.


About 2 percent of parents said that their children would receive none of the recommended vaccines and 5 percent intended to vaccinate children with some but not all vaccines. Not surprisingly, parents who intended their children to receive some but not all of the recommended vaccines reported having more concerns about childhood vaccines. These parents were more likely to believe children receive too many vaccines during the first two years of life and that vaccines may cause learning disabilities, particularly autism.


Although parents are getting information about vaccine safety and the value of vaccines primarily from pediatricians, family, and friends (in that order), the Internet is increasingly becoming a source of data. A quarter of parents said they get information from the web, more than twice the number reported in 2009 from a different survey. Traditional media are less frequently ranked and the American Academy of Pediatrics was one of the top three sources of information along with the CDC. Kennedy says that the CDC needs to do more research to better understand what sources parents are turning to and how they make use of the Internet so that CDC can make sure the parents are getting appropriate and accurate information.


In addition, although health providers are one of the most important sources that parents turn to, one in three parents surveyed said they are not fully satisfied with the information they get from their children's pediatricians on the safety and necessity of vaccines.


The June thematic issue of Health Affairs is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About Health Affairs

Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is the leading journal of health policy. The peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published weekly at You can also find the journal on Facebook and Twitter and download Narrative Matters on iTunes. Address inquiries to Sue Ducat at (301) 841-9962 or