2/3 Canadian parents unsure whether to vaccinate

(CNN) — “Suspicious?”

That’s how Canadian parents express themselves about vaccination, according to a Canadian study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Just as many respondents, 66%, answered yes to the question, “Are you skeptical or doubtful that the vaccines offered by your healthcare provider could prevent disease?” Just 25% said they were certain or somewhat likely to vaccinate their children, the survey found.

Despite that, two-thirds of parents in Canada who had not vaccinated their children at least one time said they were “certain or somewhat likely” to do so this year, according to the survey.

“Two-thirds is what I would call a kind of reassuring number,” said study author Allison Dunn, a senior public health researcher at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. The findings “in this country are what we expected.”

Canada in 2015 became the most recent country to reaffirm its commitment to immunization in keeping with the World Health Organization’s global vaccine action plan. The WHO urges countries to “strive to achieve” a 90% immunization rate against childhood diseases, particularly in Africa and low-income countries.

But Dunn found some worrying results when looking at different groups within Canada.

Less than half of parents with infants from infancy through age 2 were certain or somewhat likely to have them immunized this year. This was true even when they believed their children had received the vaccines and considered them perfectly safe.

Forty-six percent of parents with school-age children responded the same way.

However, all types of respondents felt their children were now properly vaccinated. In addition, most parents were confident that their own children had received the recommended series of two or three doses of vaccines against diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio and chickenpox.

More than half of the parents of three- and four-year-olds, ages 2 to 11, said their children received all three shots, according to the survey. But the survey also found that fewer than a third of the parents surveyed would consider “vaccination delay,” like skipping one or two vaccines, if it means their child’s health would improve.

On April 30, 22,000 adults from across Canada were polled online. All parents were asked the same four questions:

“Do you think any of the vaccines recommended by your health-care provider for your child are safe?”

“Do you think any of the vaccines recommended by your health-care provider are effective?”

“Have you heard any reports about the safety or effectiveness of any of the vaccines your child has received?”

“Do you think any of the vaccines your child has received may cause disease in other children?”

While one can debate whether the public’s response indicates deeper skepticism of vaccines, some parental advocates say the overwhelming majority of parents do vaccinate their children and simply lack access to those who can educate them on the importance of immunization.

“It’s true, most parents are aware that vaccinations are safe. They just haven’t been in contact with other parents,” said Darryl Glen Pon, an immunization policy researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Pon said he advises young parents of biracial or multiracial children, who often aren’t fully aware of all the available vaccinations until they are adults, that they should call their local health department to request a balanced immunization schedule for children.

“My job is to get that message out,” said Pon, who helped develop recommendations for the Canadian government for students to receive full vaccination requirements and a three-shot childhood schedule starting in Grade 3.

Although some parents may be less sure of the pros of vaccination and/or are unsure of the long-term benefits, Pon said, “It’s not a question of whether people are vaccinating. It’s just a question of whether they’re vaccinating with sufficient confidence.”

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