Younger doctors not sold on vaccine safety

While many practices struggle to convince parents that vaccinating their children is safe and necessary, new research indicates that younger physicians may not be fully sold on that message.

Despite high overall support for childhood vaccination among doctors, a recent study "picked up subtle, but important differences" between generations of physicians, said lead researcher Saad Omer of Emory University in Atlanta.

According to Omer's survey of 551 doctors, presented at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America in Boston, more recent graduates were 15 percent less likely to believe that vaccines are effective, compared to older graduates.

And although 81 percent of the doctors, regardless of age, agreed that "vaccines are one of the safest forms of medicine ever developed," each increase of five years in the year of graduation was associated with a 20 percent lower likelihood a doctor believed that statement was true. Meanwhile, 8 percent of doctors overall agreed that "children get more immunizations than are good for them," yet each increase of five years in the year of graduation also was associated with 20 percent increased odds a doctor believed that was true.

The findings are significant "because the most important source of information on vaccination is doctors," said Dr. Bruce Gellin, director of the National Vaccine Program Office in Washington, D.C., in a news briefing.

The survey asked doctors about their views on risk versues benefit for childhood vaccines for diseases, such as polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella. Ironically, the fact that younger physicians, who grew up with vaccinations, never experienced such diseases may be part of the reason they're less enthusiastic about vaccination now, the researchers suggested.

To learn more:
- read the article from WebMD
- see the article from the Los Angeles Times