Contemporary Pediatrics: Effects of vaccine hesitancy
By Celeste Krewson
In a Q&A, Bradley Warady, MD, pediatric nephrologist and researcher at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, discussed the rise in parental hesitancy toward vaccines, along with the effects this will have on public health.
Q: How has vaccine hesitancy affected vaccination rates in the past 2 years? What health outcomes will this lead to?
A: In 2019, the World Health Organization listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health. Vaccine hesitancy has always been a concern, but it has become increasingly prevalent and has continued to rise across the United States, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic sparked conversation about vaccine hesitancy in general, and the low vaccination rates across the country reflect a highly visible increase in vaccine hesitancy.
Research has shown that parents who reported hesitancy to other general childhood vaccines or influenza vaccines were also less likely to vaccinate their child against COVID-19. Information from a phone survey conducted in May 2022 showed that 33% of parents reported that they would not give their child the COVID-19 vaccine.
Vaccine hesitancy as it relates to childhood vaccines has been linked to significant outbreaks, so it is a public health priority to increase trust in vaccines. Failure to vaccinate places children at risk for otherwise preventable infections, and a variety of associated complications. Vaccine hesitancy and refusal is of particular concern for immunocompromised children, such as transplant recipients or those with cancer, who are at an increased risk for serious infection because of the medications they must receive.
Q: How has social media contributed to the increase in vaccine hesitancy?
A: Social media facilitates the rapid spread of information. While it allows for the dissemination of useful and accurate information, it also allows for widespread misinformation regarding vaccine efficacy and safety, which has likely contributed to growing vaccine hesitancy and opposition. Thus, while there is overwhelming evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, vaccine hesitancy persists.
Read the rest of the Q&A with Dr. Warady via Contemporary Pediatrics