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Childhood vaccines have big impact, but parents remain reluctant

Tuesday March 4, 2014
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A new economic analysis of the childhood immunization schedule shows it will prevent 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease, with a savings of $13.5 billion in direct costs and $68.8 billion in total societal costs in a single cohort.

The study, scheduled for publication in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics, used population-based vaccination coverage, vaccine efficacy data, historical data on disease incidence before vaccination and disease incidence data after vaccination to calculate the lifetime economic impact of vaccinating a hypothetical cohort of all U.S. children born in 2009. The study updates a prior analysis published in 2005.

Researchers concluded that from a societal perspective, the average savings per dollar spent on vaccination is at least $10. According to the study authors, “the vaccines currently recommended for young children represent not only a major public health victory in terms of disease prevention, but also an excellent public health ‘buy’ in terms of dollars and cents.”

Study: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/02/25/peds.2013-0698.abstract

Persuading parents

In a separate study in the same journal, researchers sought to determine what messages are most effective at overcoming the reluctance of some parents to vaccinate their children.

The researchers tested four types of messages with a nationally representative sample of 1,759 parents, who were randomly assigned either to a control group or to receive one of four interventions representing strategies commonly used by public health agencies to promote vaccination: 1) information from the CDC explaining the lack of evidence that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine causes autism; 2) textual information about the dangers of the diseases from the Vaccine Information Statement; 3) images of children who have diseases that are prevented by MMR vaccine; 4) a dramatic narrative about an infant who almost died of measles from a CDC fact sheet.

Parents’ beliefs and attitudes about vaccines were surveyed before and after the interventions. None of the messages increased parents’ intent to vaccinate, and some of them backfired.

Parents who heard the CDC information debunking a supposed link between MMR vaccine and autism came away with fewer misperceptions that vaccines cause autism. But compared with the control group, these parents’ intent to vaccinate decreased after hearing this message, with the reaction concentrated among the most vaccine-hesitant parents.

In addition, messages intended to communicate the dangers of the diseases MMR prevents were found to increase misperceptions. Images of children who have the diseases increased parents’ reported misperceptions about MMR causing autism, while those who read a narrative about an ill child expressed more concern about side effects from the vaccine.

The researchers concluded that additional research is needed to determine what messages would be more persuasive, such as more subtle narratives or messages that do not induce fear. According to the study authors, any approaches should be carefully tested before dissemination to assess their effectiveness, especially among skeptical populations.

Study abstract: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/02/25/peds.2013-2365.abstract


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