Study: Doctors Work with Parents who Wish to Space or Delay Vaccines

AAP says most pediatricians accommodate parents, despite concerns

doctors delay vaccine schedule
Most doctors will space out your child's vaccination schedule if you ask, but it isn't something they would prefer to do.. Katrina Wittkamp

Parents who are worried about the effects that giving multiple vaccines to a young child at once routinely ask their doctors about setting up an alternative, delayed schedule, and their doctors generally accommodate them even if they do not agree, according to a study published in the April 2015 issue of Pediatrics.

According to “Pediatrician Response to Parental Requests to Spread Out the Recommended Vaccine Schedule,” the majority of doctors would prefer their patients receive their vaccinations at the recommended times, but will accommodate a parent who requests a that vaccinations be more spread out over a longer period of time.

"Virtually all providers encounter requests to spread out vaccines in a typical month and, despite concerns, most are agreeing to do so," reads the report. "Providers are using many strategies in response but think few are effective. Evidence-based interventions to increase timely immunization are needed to guide primary care and public health practice. "

Ninety-three percent of pediatricians and family health practitioners said they get requests on a monthly basis to delay vaccinations for children under the age of two. The majority of doctors (87 percent) say they agree to such delays, even though they feel that "such delays put children at risk for contracting vaccine preventable diseases." The reason why doctors say they agree to the delay is because they think "they would build trust with families if they agreed to spread out the vaccines, and if they did not agree, families might leave their practice."

Reasons that parents give to their child's doctor for delaying or spacing out vaccines vary and include:

  • worries about short- and long-term complications
  • a belief that their child will not get a disease that is preventable by a vaccine
  • a worry that the child will develop autism if they receive the vaccine.

    According to the report, doctors do try to talk to the parents of their patients about changing their minds, even pointing out that it could be more painful for a child to give them separate injections (according to 84 percent of respondents), but with little success.

    Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the authors of the study express concern about delaying or spacing out vaccines, pointing out how doing so "puts children and other vulnerable people in the population at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases with potentially severe outcomes."

    To increase awareness of the safety of vaccines and the importance of following the recommended schedule, the AAP recommends:

    • Discussing vaccines for children as early as pregnancy
    • Continuing to use social media and public messaging to spread the word about the importance and safety of vaccinating on time
    • More research that looks at better, more effective ways of "countering misinformation about the safety of vaccines"

    The study took place via email and mail surveys from June through October 2012.

    534 pediatricians and family physicians took part.

    If you are unsure about how and why you should vaccinate your child, do some research. Start by having an open and honest conversation with your pediatrician about why vaccines are so important, as well as their safety and effectiveness. You chose this doctor to treat your child for your own reasons, trust their expertise and years of medical training. They should be able to assuage your concerns.

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