Many parents are unaware that their teens are missing vaccines

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published July 19, 2017

Key Takeaways

Over one-third of parents of teens do not know whether or when their teen needs another vaccine, according to results from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health done at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

For this national poll, researchers gathered responses from a national sample of 614 parents with at least one teen aged 13 to 17 years.

“When kids are little, their pediatricians usually schedule visits to coincide with the timing of recommended vaccinations,” said poll co-director Sarah Clark, MPH, associate research scientist, department of pediatrics, Child Health Evaluation and Research Center, 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.”

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only one-third of teens have received a second dose of meningococcal vaccine by age 17. In addition, less than 50% of boys aged 13 to 17 years have completed the HPV vaccine series, and less than 50% have received an annual flu shot.

Yet despite these low vaccination rates nationwide, over 90% of the parents polled believed their teen had received all the vaccines recommended for their age.

“Our poll found a significant gap between national data on teen vaccination rates and what parents report,” said Clark. “This indicates that many parents are unclear about the additional vaccines their teen may need.”

Several reasons may contribute to parent unawareness, she added. The recommended schedules for adolescent vaccinations have changed over the past few years. In addition, few states have vaccine requirements for high school students as they do for those in elementary and middle schools.

Parents reported that they primarily knew their teen was due for a vaccine either because their provider scheduled an appointment for vaccination (44%), the doctor or nurse mentioned vaccination during an office visit (40%), or there was a reminder sent by the doctor’s office (11%). Parents less frequently received a notice from the school, health plan, or the public health department.

“Parents rely on child health providers to guide them on vaccines in early childhood and during the teen years,” said Clark. “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.”

For a list and the timing of recommended vaccines from the CDC, click here.

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