One-third of US parents plan to skip flu shots for their kids

Posted at 3:03 PM, Nov 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-19 17:46:45-05

A new report found one-third of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children against the flu this year. 

Why are some parents skipping flu shots?

It was not surprising to hear why some of the nearly 2,000 parents that were polled declined the flu shot for their kids.  The top three reasons are: 

- because the parents felt their child is healthy and therefore doesn’t need the flu shot

- because they are worried about potential side effects

- and they felt the influenza vaccine doesn’t work that well

As a medical doctor, I fully support the flu shot. And everyone in my family, that means my children and myself get vaccinated. We’re all very healthy, yet we still get the flu shot. Why? Because the flu can still kill healthy people. And during last year’s flu season, the CDC reported that 185 children died.

Unfortunately, 80 percent of them did not get the flu shot. To help ease parent’s concerns, when it comes to side effects, serious allergic reactions do happen but are very rare, about 1 in a million. Most of the side-effects are mild and include a headache, nausea, and soreness or swelling where the shot was given. Overall, the flu shot is very safe. 

How are parents coming to these conclusions?

According to this nationwide poll, 4 in 10 parents decide based on what they read and hear, and a lot of it comes from friends and family. And to me, that’s a bit concerning. Which is why I urge parents to talk to their pediatrician about their concerns. The flu shot is not perfect, but it’s our best protection. And a 2017 study found it can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from it.

How effective is this year’s flu vaccine?

We can’t predict how effective it’s going to be because scientists have to decide in advance what flu strains they think will be circulating. But typically, they are 40 to 60 percent effective. And if you do get sick, the vaccine can lessen the severity because there are similarities among some flu strains.