*Why some parents suddenly refuse to vaccinate their children*

The Health Ministry spends many millions of shekels to vaccinate children, but some parents ignore experts’ pleas to take them for shots.

DR. AVITAL Porter and patient (photo credit: BINYAMIN ADAM)
DR. AVITAL Porter and patient
(photo credit: BINYAMIN ADAM)
The Health Ministry spends many millions of shekels to vaccinate children, but some parents ignore experts’ pleas to take them for shots. A new University of Haifa study suggests that even parents who are not “vaccine refusers” and who usually comply with the routine vaccination programs may hesitate or refuse to take their children for shots because of poor communication from their health fund or concerns about the safety of the vaccine.
Dr. Anat Gesser-Edelsburg, Dr. Yaffa Shir- Raz and Prof. Manfred Green from the School of Public Health published their findings recently in the Journal of Risk Research. The study examined parents’ refusal or hesitancy to vaccinate their children following the 2013 polio outbreak in Israel. While no clinical cases of paralytic polio were recorded during the outbreak, the ministry launched a campaign to immunize children under the age of 10 who were already protected with the standard inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) with a bivalent oral polio vaccine (OPV) designed to protect others who were not already vaccinated against the disease.
The study draws on results from a questionnaire survey and content analysis of parents’ discussions in blogs, websites and Facebook. Although the rate of children vaccinated during the campaign was high, the study’s findings indicate that for the first time, parents who are not “vaccine refusers” and who usually comply with the routine vaccination programs hesitated or even refused to vaccinate their children.
A third of parents surveyed who refused or were hesitant to vaccinate their children reported that the safety of the vaccine was a concern, and that they were not convinced by the information communicated by the ministry or the explanation of why this vaccine was necessary. Over a third of all respondents strongly disagreed that the ministry had provided comprehensive and clear information about the reasons for giving children the vaccine, and almost 28 percent of parents who vaccinated their children said that they did not actually understand that the purpose of the vaccine was not to protect their own child.
The researchers went on to suggest that, in the long term, the perceived ambiguity in communication could create mistrust in the health care system. The theme of distrust in the medical establishment recurred in the analysis of 35 respondents who had refused or were hesitant about vaccinating their child.
This case emphasizes the importance of transparency and credibility in health communication. For example, The ministry claimed that the OPV vaccine had “zero side effects.” Findings indicated that claiming there is no risk whatsoever was interpreted as neither respecting the public or credible.
The researchers recommend that in future instances the risk-communicating organizations should expose the dilemmas, communicate facts and “talk science” even to laypeople, especially in conditions of uncertainty: “The communicators must educate the public and include it, and not speak in all-or-nothing slogans.”
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers have shown that certain genotype combinations of the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes – but not each genome alone – change susceptibility to type 2 diabetes.
Prof. Dan Mishmar and his colleagues published their findings recently in Genome Biology and Evolution.
“One of the major research projects in my lab focuses on investigating the functional importance of the interaction between the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes for health, disease and evolution,” said the life sciences department expert, whose lab has published two breakthrough papers in the past year.
Due to increased patient activity at its trauma unit, Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center has opened a new maxillofacial surgery unit. Headed by Dr. Eran Regev, who is a physician and a dentist, it offers an outpatient clinic, hospitalization, consultation, treatment and surgery with local and general anesthesia. Maxillofacial surgeons undergo a long course of dental and other training after becoming physicians.
Dr. Ofer Merin, the hospitial’s deputy director-general and head of the trauma unit, said that patients who suffered damage or disease in the facial and neck area need the best care available. Patients with infections, benign and malignant tumors, congenital defects, salivary gland disorders, bone and dental implants and other medical problems will get coverage from the health funds. Those who want non-medical esthetic surgery may pay for it.
Meanwhile, a new study at SZMC’s pediatric pulmonary institute has shown that the prevalence of asthma has declined significantly over the last decade. The study was published in the journal Respiration.
Among the reasons given for the decline was that the smoking rate has fallen in all sectors during this period and laws preventing smoking in public places (even though enforcement of them is inadequate). In addition, the dropping rate of air pollution, especially from vehicles, and increasing use of spray bronchodilators have helped cut the number of asthma attacks. The researchers, headed by SZMC pulmonologist Dr. Shlomi Cohen, recommend a boosted information campaign to discourage smoking, more enforcement of the laws and continuing to reduce pollution.