Many American teens may not get recommended vaccinations, and their parents might bear some of the blame, a new study suggests.
The national poll of 614 parents with at least one teenager found that more than one-third didn’t know when their teen’s next vaccine was due. And half incorrectly thought that their doctor would contact them for an appointment at the appropriate time.
“When kids are little, their pediatricians usually schedule visits to coincide with the timing of recommended vaccinations,” said Sarah Clark. She is co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan.
“As children get older, well-child appointments occur less often and health providers may not address vaccines during brief visits for sickness or injury. Many teens may be missing out on important vaccines simply because families aren’t aware it’s time for one,” she added in a university news release.
Rates of certain teen vaccinations are well below public health targets. For example, only one-third of teens have received the second dose of meningitis vaccine by age 17, and less than half of boys aged 13 to 17 have completed the HPV vaccine series, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite those low rates, more than 90 percent of the parents in the survey believed their teen had received all their recommended vaccines.
“Our poll found a significant gap between national data on teen vaccination rates and what parents report. This indicates that many parents are unclear about the additional vaccines their teen may need,” Clark said.
The main way parents knew their teen was due for another vaccination was through their doctor’s office. Either the doctor scheduled an appointment for vaccination (44 percent), the doctor or nurse mentioned vaccination during an office visit (40 percent), or the doctor’s office sent families reminders (11 percent).
Another type of reminder was a notice from their teen’s school, health plan or local public health department.
“Parents rely on child health providers to guide them on vaccines — in early childhood and during the teen years,” Clark said. “Given the general lack of awareness about adolescent vaccines shown in this poll, there is a clear need for providers to be more proactive for their teen patients.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on immunizations.