Vaccine safety dominating pediatric office visits

There is good news and bad news on the childhood-vaccine front, according to a pair of recent surveys of pediatricians and parents.

First, the good news: Most parents (76 percent) trust their child's physician as their No. 1 source for vaccine safety information, according to a 2009 survey of 2,521 parents conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and published in an online supplement issue of Pediatrics.

The flip side of this, however, is that pediatricians report that vaccine-safety discussions with parents have begun to dominate well-child visits, in some cases compromising the physicians' ability to focus on other health needs.

The second study, published online April 15 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, shows that 53 percent of family practice physicians and pediatricians surveyed spend 10 to 19 minutes on vaccine discussions when parents harbor "substantial concerns" about adverse effects. For another 8 percent, these conversations last 20 minutes or longer.

About one-third of the 696 physicians surveyed in early 2009 said the pressure the vaccine discussions put on what can be accomplished during the clinic visit is negatively affecting their job satisfaction.

The survey also found that in a typical month, 79 percent of physicians reported at least one vaccine refusal, while 89 percent got at least one request to spread out vaccinations. The authors note that their research was conducted before the Lancet retracted its 1998 article by Andrew Wakefield that linked the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism.

Allison Kempe, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said in a statement that a multipronged approach is needed to educate parents about vaccine safety in the clinic setting, including greater use of educational materials before visits, educational forums and creative use of media and social marketing tools.

To learn more:
- read the article from MedScape Today
- see this piece from CIDRAP
- here's the abstract of the Pediatrics study
- here's the study abstract from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine