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Vaccination Hesitancy

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The MSN specialty track of Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) focuses on both preventative and maintenance healthcare for patients and families throughout their lifespan. One goal of the FNP is assisting patients in maintaining a healthy immune system that supports a person’s ability to protect themselves against disease. Over the years, timely childhood vaccination has proven to be paramount in the prevention of and near elimination (92 – 100%) of several diseases (Ventola, 2016). Each year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2018, provides a recommended vaccination schedule for U. S. children and adolescents ages 0-18 years. Following this schedule allows for the best immunity to the diseases the vaccinations cover.

In recent years; however, many parents have been either refusing to vaccinate their children or under vaccinate them by not completing the vaccination series or not doing so in a timely manner according to the age of the child (Ventola, 2016). There are several reasons for hesitancy to vaccinate which include risk vs. benefit, concerns about side effects and fear of autism, objection of large numbers of injections, moral or religious grounds, lack of access due to cost, etc, and just lack of information (Ventola, 2016).

Since most of the diseases that childhood vaccines cover have been nearly eradicated, people forget how the disease once caused high degrees of mortality; therefore, the benefit of the immunity has been forgotten or is no longer considered relevant. Parents perceive the potential risks more detrimental than the possible benefits that would be acquired from immunizations.

Fear of child becoming autistic because of vaccination began in 1998 when a researcher by the name of Lancet released a report that MMR vaccination and autism were linked in a group of children. That study has since been renounced by Lancet as flawed research. Several large-scale studies have been done to determine if there is, in fact, a link between the two and no connection has been made (Ventola, 2016). Due to the widespread media coverage of this study, parents today still fear that vaccination will result in autism.

Multiple injections per visit has also deterred parents from vaccinating their children. Combination vaccinations have greatly reduced the number of injections in recent years, but parents still worry that the amount of vaccines introduced at one time can reduce their child’s immune system and make them susceptible to allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders (Ventola, 2016).

According to Wombwell, Fangman, Yoder and Sperro (2015) several religions do not endorse vaccination mainly due to the use of animal products and aborted fetus tissue in the ingredients of some vaccines.

Lack of access due to costs, lack of transportation to clinics, and other socioeconomic factors also effect the immunization rate of children (Ventola, 2016). The simple lack of information also deters parents from vaccination. Unless healthcare providers take the time to inform parents about vaccination and its benefits to the community as well as their child, they are not aware of its importance.

My area of interest lies in determining whether additional education that addresses the concerns identified as causing hesitancy toward vaccination could decrease the hesitancy and result in greater numbers of vaccinated children in my area of southcentral Kentucky. This was my original area of interest, and I have only refined it to include my region.

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