Children treated with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies were significantly less likely to receive the annual influenza vaccine than those who didn’t use alternative medicine, based on data from 9,000 children aged 4-17 years in the Child Complementary and Alternative Medicine File of the 2012 National Health Interview Survey.

“CAM has been implicated as lending support to antivaccine/vaccine-hesitant viewpoints via criticism of vaccination, public health, and conventional medicine from adults using CAM, as well as from CAM practitioners and practitioners-in-training,” wrote William K. Bleser, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

Overall, flu vaccination rates in children who used alternative medicine services (AMS) or manipulative and body-based therapies (MBBT) were significantly lower than in children who never used these services (33% vs. 43% and 35% vs. 43%, respectively). In multivariate analysis, flu vaccination rates in the past 12 months were approximately 40% for children who had used any type of AMS or MBBT (adjusted odds ratio, 0.61), compared with approximately 25% for children who had never used these services (adjusted OR, 0.75).

No significant differences in vaccination rates were noted for children who had used three other categories of nonconventional care: biologically based therapies (such as herbal supplements), mind-body therapies (such as yoga), and multivitamins.

“There is an opportunity for U.S. public health, policy, and conventional medical professionals and educators to improve vaccine uptake and child health by better engaging both CAM and conventional medicine practitioners-in-training, parents of children using particular domains of CAM, and the CAM practitioners advising them,” the researchers said.

Find the full article in Pediatrics (2016. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-4664 ).


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