JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite long-standing recommendations that children six months and up get the flu vaccine, more than one-third of American parents say their children are unlikely to get vaccinated this year.
That's according to a report from C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, which is based on a survey of 1,977 parents that asked if their children would be vaccinated and what factors influenced their decisions.
Researchers found that two-thirds of parents surveyed said they would get their children vaccinated this year, compared to 34 percent who said their children likely would not get the flu vaccine.
Of those surveyed, 48 percent said they tend to follow the advice given by their child's health care provider, compared to 38 percent who said they base their decisions on what they read and hear.
Those in favor of vaccination said they saw four times as much positive information than negative information about it, while those against it said they saw seven times as much negative information.
Among the reasons parents cited for not getting their children vaccinated were concerns about side effects, doubt about how well it works and the belief that their healthy child does not need it.
Last flu season, 179 children died of flu-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency said 80 percent of the children who died were unvaccinated.
Dr. Mobeen Rathore, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Wolfson Children's Hospital, said now is the time to vaccinate your child because flu season has not yet reached its peak.
"This is not an illness you should take lightly," he said. "You have a vaccine that's safe, effective and, for most children, it's free, so there's no reason that a child should not be vaccinated."
Rathore said there's a misunderstanding among some parents that an otherwise healthy child will stay healthy and, therefore, does not need a flu vaccine.
"We've already had a death from influenza in South Florida and that was a healthy child," he said. "Usually kids who die from influenza are healthy."
He noted that if a child gets the flu and they've already been vaccinated, the symptoms would be much milder than without the vaccine.
Ultimately, though, it's up to parents to decide whether they want their children to get vaccinated.
"I just wanted to protect my children against the flu and other children in the area from getting it as well," said Cindy Schillingford, a Jacksonville mother of two.
Brandy, a mother who preferred to use only her first name, said she has no problem with shots, but said she would not get her 2-year-old son vaccinated because she doubts it will protect him.
"I feel like the other ones are necessary to keep those diseases at bay," she said. "I just don't feel like that about the flu."