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Risk factors affect parents’ attitudes about STD vaccinations


The severity of possible infection and the effectiveness of a vaccine weighed heavily in the decision-making process for parents reporting their views on childhood vaccination for sexually transmitted diseases.

The analysis of 278 parental views on STD vaccination for children was reported in the Feb.7 issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine by researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine.

In an ongoing series of studies, lead author Gregory D. Zimet, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and clinical psychology, and his colleagues are evaluating parental attitudes toward adolescent vaccination for STDs in anticipation of availability of vaccines that are currently in various stages of development.

"Health professionals have expressed concern that many parents will be resistant for a variety of reasons to vaccinating children or adolescents for sexually transmitted diseases," said Dr. Zimet. "Our research is proactive and we hope to provide physicians with an understanding of the issues parents may have about STD vaccines by the time they are on the market."

The participants, who were parents or guardians accompanying a child between the ages of 12 and 17 years to a pediatric clinic visit, completed a survey to test their reaction to nine hypothetical vaccine scenarios. Variables included the mode of transmission (sexually transmitted or not sexually transmitted); severity of infection (curable with antibiotics, chronic and incurable, or usually fatal); vaccine effectiveness (50 percent, 70 percent or 90 percent); and availability of behavioral methods for prevention (yes or no).

The scenarios mixed the variables to present a clear picture of preferences and concerns about STD vaccination. Parents expressed little difference in their willingness to accept a vaccine whether it was for an STD or an infection that is not sexually transmitted. However, parents showed a preference in the scenarios for vaccines:

  • that prevented a potentially fatal infection
  • were 90 percent effective
  • provided protection for an infection that could not be avoided through behavioral modification.

"The most surprising result was that parents did not distinguish between STD and non-STD vaccines, but were equally favorable in their assessments regardless of the sexually transmissibility of the infection," said Dr. Zimet.

The results are relatively consistent with preliminary research indicating that most parents are focused on protecting their children’s health and not as concerned with the source of infection, he said.

Only 6 percent of the parents expressed an aversion toward STD vaccines in general. Dr. Zimet said future studies will focus more specifically on this group of parents to better understand the source of their reluctance.

Mary Hardin | EurekAlert!
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