A national survey of parents, teens and healthcare providers (HCPs), sponsored by the non-profit Unity Consortium reveals a vast majority of parents and teens believe it is important for all teens to be vaccinated.
However, in reality teen vaccination rates are far lower than where they should be. For instance, less than 50% of male teens and 65% of female teens have received the first dose of the HPV vaccine series.
Why the reason for this gap? Unity evaluated this closely in a recently published Call to Action, Adolescent Immunization: Understanding Challenges and Framing Solutions for Healthcare Providers, and the survey results reinforced that both parents’ and teens’ attitudes towards preventive health keep them from prioritizing important preventive health strategies like vaccination.
• Approximately 1 in 4 parents and teens (23% each) believe that vaccines are more important for babies and not as important for teens
• More than one-third of teens (34%) don’t know how being vaccinated helps them
• Four in 10 parents (41%) believe their teen should only see a doctor when he/she feels sick, reducing opportunities to discuss preventive health measures, such as vaccines
• While most teens (92%) trust their doctor when seeking information about their health, nearly half of all teens (47%) agree they do not like talking to doctors or other healthcare providers.
Differences were also seen between younger and older teens. The survey shows that older teens are starting to take more responsibility. They want healthcare providers to help them stay healthy by sending reminders for annual checkups and vaccinations. Older teens also reported that spending time alone with the HCP makes them feel more responsible for their health. While feeling that way, physicians noted that it is the younger teens who speak more during visits. With regard to vaccines, younger teens and their parents are also significantly more likely to say that vaccines are for babies, not as important for teens.
While annual check-ups are critical, the 11-12 and 16-year old appointments are essential for teens to be on the recommended schedule for vaccinations. The CDC recommends that adolescents receive four vaccines to protect their health in the short and long-term.
- Meningococcal–Two distinct meningococcal disease vaccines (ACWY and B) protect against the most common types of bacterial meningitis. While most people recover from meningitis, permanent disabilities (such as brain damage, hearing loss, and learning disabilities) and even death can result from the infection. Receiving both vaccines can help heighten protection.
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis [whooping cough]) and Td Booster (tetanus and diphtheria)– Recently, there have been outbreaks of whopping cough in the United States.
- HPV (human papillomavirus)–The vaccine is most effective at preventing HPV-associated cancers in both boys and girls when given during preteen years.
- Flu–More serious than a cold, flu impacts an infected person for up to two weeks, but can also lead to serious and even deadly complications. A flu vaccination is needed annually as the flu strains mutate and, while there is still a low risk of catching the flu even with the shot, patients will often experience a milder case of the flu if vaccinated.
Surprisingly, given that science and research have validated the safety and overwhelming benefit of vaccines, nearly 6 in 10 parents (57%) and teens (57%) have safety concerns about vaccines. Among physicians, less than half (44%) have reminders in place to remind teens or their parents about missed vaccinations. This combination shows a clear gap in the opportunity to assess and discuss the need for vaccination as a vital part of preventive health and to vaccinate.
“We all have a common goal to keep our teens healthy now and in the future, and with the advances in science, we have a great ability to do that,” said Judy Klein, President of Unity Consortium. “We understand the confusion that can come with something new or how seeing a healthcare provider when healthy may be a low priority. But ignoring these steps has real consequences. That is why we at Unity won’t stop until preventive health and vaccination become a priority in every household.”
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