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MU and Health Care Partners Promote Childhood Vaccinations

Parental fears cited as primary obstacle to raising awareness

Millions of people throughout the world were once killed and crippled by polio. Then pediatrician Frederick Robbins, MD, a University of Missouri medical school graduate and Nobel Prize winner, made discoveries that led to a polio vaccine. Since the vaccine was first distributed in the 1950s, polio — one of the most dreaded epidemic diseases in history — has been nearly eradicated through global distribution of a simple oral drug.
Click here to read "I've Heard Some Things That Scare Me: Responding With Empathy to Parents' Fears of Vaccinations"

MU's School of Medicine has now joined the Missouri State Medical Association (MSMA) and physicians, hospitals, universities and organizations across the state to raise awareness and promote education about the continued importance of childhood vaccinations. In the January/February 2012 issue of Missouri Medicine, the journal of the MSMA, authors Kenneth Haller, MD, and Anthony Scalzo, MD, pediatricians with SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, examine the science and history of vaccinations and autism. The authors review the fears that many parents experience after receiving information from anti-vaccine advocates. The pediatricians also propose a family-centered approach to combat fears and encourage vaccinations for children.

"Despite evidence supporting the vast successes of vaccines preventing childhood disease and death, misconceptions persist among some parents about vaccinating their children," said Michael Cooperstock, MD, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases with the Department of Child Health at MU. "It is not only our job as health care professionals to provide parents with the best and most credible information about vaccines but also to ease their fears about those misconceptions."

In November 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics published the results of a national survey of parents of young children regarding their attitudes toward vaccination. It found that more than one in 10 parents surveyed currently use an alternative vaccination schedule. It also showed that a large proportion of parents who do use the recommended vaccination schedule have misgivings about it and have considered switching to an alternative, less protective schedule.

Click here to read "Routine Vaccination: A Growing Crisis of Public Confidence"
Also appearing in the issue of Missouri Medicine, Gary Pettett, MD, MSMA president and emeritus professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, focuses on the public concern over vaccinations and cites numerous cases of vaccines completely or nearly eradicating many of the major causes of childhood illness and death of the 20th century. He advises that physicians become engaged as patient and health care advocates at both the local and national level to help alleviate fears of vaccination.

Drs. Haller, Scalzo, and Pettett propose that if physicians do not acknowledge and address the emotional basis of parental vaccine refusal, they will not be persuasive. They assert that while a fact-based explanation of vaccine safety is essential, physicians must also use their personal experience and expertise to counter parental fears.

MU Health Magazine


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