Many of the concerns heard by the nearly 750 pediatricians and family practice physicians surveyed for the study were about known, short-term effects from vaccines, such as pain and fever.
But many others were about unproven, or disproved, allegations that vaccines can cause everything from autism to diabetes, according to results published in the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The survey was performed in the year 2000, and funded by the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And that, says lead researcher Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H., means that children's doctors need to be understanding of parents' concerns, equipped with the latest information on vaccine safety, and ready to react to vaccination concerns or refusals.
As the "front lines" in the nation's vaccine delivery system, he says, physicians and other children's health providers need to help parents understand the benefits of vaccination, the state of knowledge on vaccine safety concerns, and the individual and societal risks of leaving their children unvaccinated.
"Physicians are in a unique position to both quantify parental concerns about vaccine safety, and provide information on the impact of those concerns on their decision making as parents," says Freed, the director of the Division of General Pediatrics at the U-M Health System and the Percy and Mary Murphy Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health Delivery at the U-M Medical School. "All of us must be sensitive to parents' concerns, and well prepared to respond to them."