Results from a nationwide survey recently released found that parents of children aged 4 to 12 were more reluctant to vaccinate their child against chickenpox than against other preventable illnesses and that misperceptions about the seriousness of the disease may be to blame. The new survey of 1,011 parents, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) and Merck & Co. Inc., found that although almost all parents surveyed (97%) were aware that a chickenpox vaccine is available, less than two-thirds (64%) had taken action to vaccinate their child. These same parents reported vaccination rates of almost 90% against measles, mumps and rubella and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. More concerning, 51% of parents who had a child at risk for developing chickenpox said they were unlikely to vaccinate their child against the disease in the future.
“What we’ve learned is that in many cases parents are making the decision to not vaccinate based on misperceptions or misinformation. Many of these unvaccinated children between the ages of 4 and 12 may contract the disease later in life,” said Tammy Tempfer, MSN, of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. “Pediatric health experts, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NAPNAP, agree that vaccination is the best way to protect against serious complications that may result from chickenpox.”
The survey found that several factors act as barriers to vaccinating against chickenpox and that access to information about both the disease and the vaccine was an important motivator for parents who chose to vaccinate.
Misperceptions Create Barriers
According to the survey, among parents of unvaccinated children, 48% were not likely to vaccinate their children because they don’t believe that chickenpox is a serious disease. Many parents were not aware that chickenpox can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis, skin infections, scarring or death. , Several other facts about chickenpox and vaccination were contradicted by survey findings:
· The CDC recommend vaccination against chickenpox as the best way to protect against severe complications and death associated with the disease; yet, the survey found that 32% of parents thought it was better to contract the disease naturally than get the vaccine.
· Although it is possible for vaccinated children to develop chickenpox, such breakthrough cases are usually milder and are not associated with the potentially severe complications of chickenpox found in unvaccinated children. Still, 16% of the parents surveyed were concerned that their child may still develop chickenpox after being vaccinated.
· Even though there is no clear evidence of waning immunity among people who have been vaccinated against chickenpox , , about half of parents surveyed assumed that the vaccine would wear off.
Among parents surveyed who chose to vaccinate their children for chickenpox, the majority were satisfied with their decision, with 80% reporting they believed they were doing the best thing for their child.
Information is a Key Motivator
The survey findings suggested that health care providers played a key role in parents’ decision to vaccinate. Nearly 90% of parents who chose to vaccinate their child for chickenpox reported that their health care provider recommended the chickenpox vaccine. More importantly, 62% of parents said their health care provider’s recommendation was the primary factor in deciding to vaccinate. Conversely, 57% of parents who did not vaccinate their child for chickenpox had not discussed the vaccine with their health care provider.
“The survey results show how important it is for parents and health care providers to proactively address vaccination,” Tempfer noted.
The chickenpox vaccine is not for everyone. For example, it is contraindicated in persons with a history of hypersensitivity to any component of the vaccine, including gelatin. Parents should talk to their health care provider about whether vaccination is right for their child. As with any vaccine, the chickenpox vaccine does not result in a protective effect in all vaccinees. Adverse reactions that have been reported with the use of the chickenpox vaccine include fever, injection site complaints and rash (injection site and generalized). For a more information about side effects associated with the vaccine, talk to your pediatric health care provider.
The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) is a professional association that advocates for children and Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. NAPNAP has over 6,600 members and 50 chapters in 30 states. For more information about NAPNAP, please contact the national office at 856-857-9700.