THURSDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- Although nearly all American children get the recommended vaccinations to prevent serious diseases, many parents express concerns about the shots, and a small number refuse to have their kids inoculated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 95 percent of parents said their kids had received all the vaccinations or would get them all, which was a record high, a 2010 survey found. But about 5 percent of parents said they would decline some vaccines, and 2 percent said their little ones would receive no vaccines, the researchers said.
"We are reassured that, overall, parents are vaccinating their kids according to the recommended schedule," said lead researcher Allison Kennedy, an epidemiologist in CDC's Immunization Services Division.
"But we did find that most parents do have questions or concerns about vaccines," she said.
Better education efforts could resolve those doubts, Kennedy said. Doctors need information on the value and safety record of vaccines so they can help parents make an informed decision.
Recent outbreaks of mumps, measles and whooping cough show that these deadly diseases still exist, Kennedy said. "Because of successful vaccination programs," many young parents don't remember when these diseases were epidemic, she noted.
The report is published in the June issue of Health Affairs.
For the study, Kennedy's team used data from the annual HealthStyles survey, which gathered information on parental attitudes toward childhood vaccination from 376 households.
While 23 percent of the parents said they had no concerns about vaccines, most had one or more concerns, the researchers found.
Parents mentioned pain from the injection, getting too many shots at one time and the safety of ingredients in the vaccines.
Some parents also worried that vaccines could cause disease or are being given for illnesses children are unlikely to get, the investigators found.
Parents who said their kids would not get all the recommended vaccinations were likely to think too many vaccines are given in the first two years of life or that vaccines can cause learning difficulties, especially autism. The autism theory has been widely refuted.
One in three parents added that they are not satisfied with the information they get from their children's doctor about the safety and necessity of vaccines.
Much of the information parents get about vaccines comes from their doctor or friends, Kennedy said. One-quarter said they took their information from the Internet, twice the number seen in a different survey in 2009, the researchers pointed out.
Dr. Paul Offit, chief of the division of infectious diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, is concerned -- but not surprised -- that resistance to vaccination still exists.
Offit, an outspoken advocate of vaccination, said the movement against vaccinations has resulted in outbreaks of diseases all but unheard of just a few years ago.
"I try to reassure parents with the science," he said. And he tells them that a decision against vaccination is not risk-free. "It's a choice to take a different and more serious risk," he explained.
"We are seeing outbreaks of measles, mumps and whooping cough to degrees we haven't seen in the previous 10 years. It's a dangerous and, frankly, a misinformed choice not to get a vaccine," he said.
Before vaccines, whooping cough killed 8,000 children in the United States annually, diphtheria was a common cause of death among young people, and polio caused tens of thousands of cases of paralysis, he pointed out. Measles resulted in 3,000 to 5,000 deaths, Offit said.
Even though the data linking vaccines to autism has been discredited, some people still believe it, he noted.
"We are far more compelled by fear than reason, and fear wins," Offit said. "We don't fear the diseases, so it's very easy to scare us about these other things," he stated.
But as outbreaks of preventable diseases become more common, "we will get to a level where we will be scared enough of the diseases again that we will start to vaccinate again," Offit said.
For more about vaccines, visit vaccines.gov.
SOURCES: Allison Kennedy, M.P.H., epidemiologist, Immunization Services Division, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Paul Offit, M.D., chief, division of infectious diseases and director, Vaccine Education Center, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; June 2011 Health Affairs
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