As I mentioned in a blog post a few weeks ago, more AZ parents are choosing not to vaccinate their kids- and using “personal exemptions” when they enroll their kids in school. If the trend continues, we could jeopardize our immunization rates enough so that we’d see long gone diseases like measles and mumps return in AZ. In order to figure out why more parents are making this choice, we asked Dr.’s Ernst & Jacobs at the UA’s College of Public Health to look into the “who, what, when, where and why” of this trend toward more personal belief exemptions. I talked about the where exemptions are more common in my earlier blog, but now we have a better idea of why those rates have been growing – convenience, fear and recordkeeping.
One of the key tasks we asked the UA to look into is why more and more parents are choosing not to vaccinate their kids. During town hall sessions with parents whose kids attended schools with high exemption rates… 62% of exempting parents said they had heard of someone who had a reaction to a vaccine. Parents who chose exemptions were concerned with the possible side-effects of immunizations and didn’t always trust information provided by the government and pharmaceutical companies. A statewide survey of 131 clinicians found the main reasons parents refuse or delay immunizations is the unfounded fear their child will suffer long-term consequences from vaccine side-effects. The doctors cited personal conversations with parents as the most effective tool in educating parents about vaccines.
The studies done by the UA include recommendations about how to overcome some of the issues… but much of it boils down to better education about vaccinations. Our Immunization Program website includes the findings and recommendations from the UA study. I’ve also asked our immunization and maternal and child health teams to examine this new data and provide me with some intervention recommendations moving forward.