It’s Tough to Change the Minds of ‘Vaccine-Hesitant’ Parents, Study Finds | Health News

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter


WEDNESDAY, Oct. 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) — When parents have concerns about the safety of childhood vaccinations, it can be tough to change their minds, as a new study shows.

The study involved “vaccine-hesitant” parents — a group distinct from the staunch “anti-vaxxer” crowd. They have worries about one or more routine vaccines, and question whether the benefits for their child are worthwhile.

Even though those parents are not “adamantly” opposed to vaccinations, it can still be hard for pediatricians to allay their concerns, said Jason Glanz, lead researcher on the study.

So Glanz and his colleagues looked at whether giving parents more information — online material “tailored” to their specific concerns — might help.

It didn’t. Parents who received the information were no more likely to have their babies up to date on vaccinations than other parents were, the study found.

The news was not all bad. Overall, more than 90% of babies in the study were all caught up on vaccinations.

So it may have been difficult to improve upon those numbers, according to Glanz, who is based at Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Institute for Health Research in Aurora.

But, he said, it’s also possible the customized information reinforced some parents’ worries.

“It might have done more harm than good,” Glanz said.

That’s because among vaccine-hesitant parents, those who were directed to general information that was not tailored, had the highest vaccination rates — at 88%.

The findings were published online Oct. 12 in Pediatrics.

Childhood vaccination rates in the United States are generally high. But studies show that about 10% of parents either delay or refuse vaccinations for their kids — generally over safety worries.

Routine childhood vaccines have a long history of safe use, Glanz said, but some parents have questions. They may have heard that certain ingredients in vaccines are not safe, or worry that their baby is being given “too many” immunizations in a short time.

And during a busy pediatrician visit, Glanz said, it can be hard to address all those questions.

So his team tested a web-based tactic to augment routine checkups. They randomly assigned 824 pregnant women and new parents to one of three groups: One received standard vaccine information from their pediatrician; another was directed to the study website for additional, but general, information on immunizations; and the third received tailored information from the website.

That tailoring was done with the help of a survey that asked parents about their vaccine beliefs and concerns.

In the end, however, the targeted messaging flopped. It made no difference among parents overall: Across the three groups, between 91% and 93% of babies were up to date on vaccinations at 15 months of age.

And among the 98 parents who were deemed vaccine-hesitant, the tactic seemed to backfire: Only 67% of those babies were up to date compared to 88% of those whose parents received general vaccine information. The rate was 75% in the standard-care group.

Dr. Edgar Marcuse,

Study: Sicker livestock emit more methane, accelerating climate change

Oct. 7 (UPI) — Warming temperatures may inspire a feedback loop of climate-altering flatulence, according to a new paper published Wednesday in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

Over the last decade, atmospheric methane concentrations have risen dramatically, and studies suggest livestock and their digestive systems are responsible for roughly half of the increase in methane emissions.

Scientists suggest the problem is likely to get worse as temperatures rise.

According to the new paper, a review of scientific literature on livestock health and methane emissions, rates of parasitic worm and bacterial infections are expected to rise as the planet warms. When cows, sheep and other animals are battling an infection, they emit more methane.

“Some parasitic worms spend part of their life cycle in the external environment — on grass, for example — and temperature can affect the rate at which these parasites develop into a life stage that can infect animals,” lead study author Vanessa Ezenwa told UPI in an email.

“For example, in some areas, colder temperatures during winter months slow down or stop the development of these parasites,” said Ezenwa, a professor of ecology at the University of Georgia.

Several studies have shown parasitic and bacterial infections increase the amount methane produced per unit of food consumed by livestock.

“It’s not known why this happens, but it could be related to the disruption caused by these parasites in the GI tract which is where methane is produced through bacterial fermentation of plant material,” Ezenwa said.

Because sicker livestock are often less productive — cows plagued by parasites yield less milk — farmers need more food and animals to maintain production levels, boosting methane emissions.

Bacteria and parasitic worms aren’t the only infection agents expected to proliferate in a warmer world.

“Recently, the protozoan parasite that causes trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, have been linked to increased methane emissions in livestock,” Ezenwa said.

Ezenwa and her research partners used data from their scientific review to model the impacts of parasitic infections on livestock methane emissions. The simulations revealed a disconnect between current models and reality.

“Current and future contributions by ruminant livestock to global methane emissions may be substantially underestimated,” Ezenwa said. “Given that ruminant livestock are responsible for nearly half of all the methane produced from living sources, this is an important insight that we hope will prompt further research to understand the connections between livestock diseases and methane emissions.”

Ezenwa hopes the newly published paper will inspire other scientists to investigate the effects of rising temperatures on a variety of infectious agents, as well as the effects of those agents on methane production.

To slow methane emissions by ruminant livestock, researchers must identify and combat the most problematic parasites and bacteria strains.

Ezenwa said scientists must avoid studying parasites, bacteria and methane emissions in isolation. Instead, researchers need to focus on untangling to the complex connections between climate warming, infectious diseases and greenhouse gas emissions.

“To date, studies on the effects of climate warming on infectious