The recent measles outbreak that spread through 17 states brought the issue of childhood vaccination into the headlines, leaving some with the impression that a growing movement of parents is questioning this cornerstone of public health. But there is good news, said K. “Vish” Viswanath, professor of health communication at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. As chair of a working group charged by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to look into national vaccine confidence, he found that the overwhelming majority of parents (80%-90%) are vaccinating their children on the physician-recommended schedule. The group will release recommendations for further boosting vaccination rates — and confidence in their safety — to HHS in July. Key among them: spreading the message that vaccination is the norm.
“Parents who do vaccinate their children want to be supported,” Viswanath said. “Some have questions and doubts that they want to have clarified. They care for their children, and when they hear on the news that other parents are declining or delaying vaccinations, they wonder if they are making the right decision.”
Howard Koh, professor of the practice of public health leadership, convened the vaccine confidence working group, which is part of HHS’s National Vaccine Advisory Committee, in 2013 when he was then serving as assistant secretary for health for HHS.