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Team Develops Early Warning Tool for Vaccine Skepticism

USACE Europe District

Seattle researchers have developed a kind of early-warning device for identifying parents suspicious of childhood vaccines. With an especially high rate of parents opting out of vaccines for their kids in Washington, pediatrician Doug Opel has been trying to figure out how to intervene early on.

Opel practices at Seattle Children’s Hospital and at its research institute. He is also an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He and others developed a survey of parents’ attitudes about vaccination. In a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics, they found that the survey does a pretty good job of predictingwhich kids would be under-vaccinated by the time they’re 19 month sold.

Opel says screening parents early gives doctors a chance to educate them.

“It allows us to identify parents early on that will likely under-immunize their kid, unless we are able to positively shape those attitudes [and] beliefs so that they accept immunizations. And it gives us a window of opportunity to try and do that,” Opel said.  

The survey asks parents how concerned they are about side effects and vaccine safety, and whether they believe it’s better for children to develop immunity by getting sick instead of getting shots.

Parents with a high score for vaccine hesitancy were almost 50 percent more likely to be behind schedule on their kids’ vaccines. About one in 20 Washington childrenwas exempted from vaccines last year—the seventh-highest rate in the country.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.