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Child-vaccination rates have not dropped

The number of patients receiving recommended vaccinations has remained stable over the last year, according to an independent study, despite popular fears about vaccination schedules, effects and ingredients.

Sixty-one percent of pediatricians said they did not see a marked change in the number of patients receiving recommended vaccinations, according to a microsurvey performed by InCrowd, a Boston-based market research firm specializing in health care. Of the 39 percent of pediatricians who did observe a change, 71 percent reported an increase in the number of patients receiving recommended vaccinations. The survey included 263 pediatricians, out of 91,000 pediatricians in the United States.  

The findings agree with other recent reports that have found no decrease in vaccinations, even as the anti-vaccination movement continues to make news with reports of autism and other negative effects from giving kids shots.

InCrowd’s survey results are in line with the results of the National Immunization Survey administered by the Centers for Disease Control. That survey gathers data by contacting parents or guardians of children aged 19-to-35 months, and gaining consent to contact the vaccination provider. Once consent is obtained, the provider is sent a mail-based survey about vaccination history and dates of receipt for specific doses. 

There was no significant change in vaccination levels for children born from January 2011 through May 2013, according to a study of national, state and selected local area vaccination coverage among children aged 19-to-35 months published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. That report did find an estimated two percentage point increase for the first dose of Hepatitis A vaccine and a 2.8 percentage point increase for the second dose.

Despite the small number of respondents in InCrowd's sample, the head of the company said this allows for a confidence interval of 90 to 95 percent with a 5 percent margin of error. 

“Most of the surveys currently being reported in broadcast media reports of election polling have sample sizes in the 200 to 400 respondent range as representative of all registered voters,” said Diane Hayes, president and co-founder of InCrowd.  “In this context, sample size is appropriate for the goal of providing insight into what doctors think on a given topic, and not advanced predictive statistical modeling.” 

While the National Immunization Survey reaches respondents through a random-digit-dialing system, InCrowd surveys physicians who have already opted in to its survey system. InCrowd runs data collection surveys for life science companies, but also performs independent surveys and shares the results as a public service.

“We’ve been curious if there had been a marked change in vaccination trends and what pediatricians’ perceptions are related to vaccination education among their patients,” Hayes said.

Lt. Courtney Detring, a U.S. Navy doctor partway through her pediatric residency, said she has seen no overall change in the numbers of children getting vaccines, but that she has treated parents who were reluctant to vaccinate their children.

She said the most common questions parents ask are: “Do they cause autism or nerve disorders? And why do we still vaccinate against diseases that aren’t present in the United States?”

InCrowd survey respondents said that the most common concerns they heard from parents were: the potential for developmental delays associated with autism (73 percent), concerns about the number of vaccines given simultaneously (69 percent) and concerns over ingredients in vaccinations (51 percent).

According to the Vaccine Safety page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no link between vaccines and autism. “Since 2003, there have been nine CDC funded or conducted studies that have found no link between thimerosal containing vaccines and ASD [autism spectrum disorders] in children,” the page states. “No links have been found between any vaccine ingredients and ASD.”

Among InCrowd’s survey respondents, 73 percent suggested public service ads in digital media, print or TV to educate parents; 61 percent suggested social media campaigns; and 49 percent suggested allocating more time during patient visits to discuss vaccination concerns.