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Misinformation and access are big factors in parents’ vaccination decisions

A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared at the New York State drive-thru vaccination site at Plattsburgh International Airport.
Office of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Misinformation and access to care could sway a parent’s decision to get their newborn children vaccinated during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from Stony Brook University.

Stony Brook researcher Heidi Preis and her team looked at how pregnant mothers’ experiences influenced their decision to give their infants regular vaccinations, like those for measles, mumps and rubella. She said some parents face barriers to vaccination — access to care, health insurance and paid family leave.

“Poverty is related to less of a vaccine uptake in infants, and race and ethnicity, so that minoritized groups are less likely to have their infants vaccinated,” Preis said.

Parents who used telehealth and spent less time in the hospital were less likely to vaccinate their kids. Preis said that’s especially concerning during the pandemic. So is vaccine hesitancy, which could come from social media misinformation.

“And people wrongly think that there’s a lot of risk involved, and don’t understand the importance of having their infants vaccinated in a timely manner,” Preis said.

Preis said when infants go unvaccinated, it can have long-term consequences for everyone.

“We see a snowball effect that ripples,” Preis said, “and then they’re not fully immunized when they’re supposed to, and that creates pockets of outbreaks.”

Preis said health care providers need to build more trust with patients to improve vaccination rates. The research is part of a larger study on stress in pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.