Vaccines beneficial, but public health messages ineffective

Using images of sick children or dramatic narratives increased parents' self-reported beliefs in serious vaccine adverse side effects.

Vaccines beneficial, but public health messages ineffective
Vaccines beneficial, but public health messages ineffective

HealthDay News -- Routine U.S. childhood immunization results in considerable economic savings, yet public health communications about vaccines seem to be ineffective, according to findings from two studies published online in Pediatrics.

Childhood vaccines prevented and estimated 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease in 2009, resulting in a net savings of $13.5 billion in direct costs and $68.8 billion in total societal costs, Fangjun Zhou, PhD, of the CDC, and colleagues reported.

They examined the economic impact of the 2009 routine U.S. childhood immunization schedule in a hypothetical U.S. birth cohort of 4,261,494 infants followed from birth to death. Cost-saving projections were based on population-based vaccination coverage, published vaccine efficacies, historical data on pre-vaccination disease-incidence and reported disease incidence during 2005 to 2009.

The vaccines included in the analysis included diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate, inactivated poliovirus, measles/mumps/rubella, hepatitis B, varicella, 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate, hepatitis A, and rotavirus vaccines. Influenza vaccine was not included.

"From both direct cost and societal perspectives, vaccinating children as recommended with these vaccines results in substantial cost savings," Zhou and colleagues wrote.

Yet combating vaccine misinformation continues to be problematic. In a separate study, Brendan Nyhan, PhD, from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and colleagues conducted a web-based survey involving 1,759 parents (≥18 years) with children in their household.

The parents were randomly assigned to receive one of four interventions designed to test the effectiveness of messages to reduce vaccine-related misperceptions and increase vaccine rates for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR). 

None of the interventions resulted in increased parental intent to vaccinate a future child. For parents with the least favorable vaccine attitudes, refuting claims of an MMR-autism link reduced misperceptions relating to vaccines, but still decreased intent to vaccinate.

Furthermore, using images of sick children or dramatic narratives about vaccine-preventable diseases increased parents' self-reported beliefs in serious adverse side effects, the researchers found.

"Current public health communications about vaccines may not be effective," Nyhan and colleagues write. "More study of pro-vaccine messaging is needed."

References

  1. Zhou F et al. Pediatrics. 2014; doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-0698.
  2. Nyhan B et al. Pediatrics. 2014; doi:10.1542/peds.2013-2365.
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