Alternative Treatments Linked to Skipping Flu Shots

(Image credit: Evgeny Atamanenko |

Children who have been treated with certain forms of complementary or alternative medicine may be less likely to get the flu vaccine, according to a new study.

The exact reason behind this link is not clear. However, it may be because the health care providers involved in complementary and alternative medicine treatments are hesitant to recommend vaccines, the researchers said. It's possible that some practitioners of complementary or alternative medicine may even advise parents against vaccinating their kids against flu, the researchers said.

The results show that children who may have had contact with a practitioner of complementary and alternative medicine had lower odds of receiving the flu vaccine, said lead study author William Bleser, a researcher in health policy and administration at Pennsylvania State University. [Flu Shot Facts & Side Effects (Updated for 2016-2017)]

In the study, the researchers looked at information collected on 9,000 U.S. children ages 4 and 17, who took part in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. The survey is conducted yearly by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bleser and his colleagues looked at the use of complementary and alternative medicine, as well as the flu vaccine among the survey participants.

They found that 8 percent of the kids had used a biologically based therapy, such as herbal supplements; 7 percent had used a manipulative and body-based therapy, such as chiropractic manipulation; 5 percent had used a mind-body therapy, such as yoga; and 4 percent had used an alternative medical system, such as acupuncture.

Of all the kids in the study, 43 percent had received an influenza vaccine in the previous year. When the researchers took a closer look at the data, they found that those children who had ever used an alternative medical system or received a manipulative and body-based therapy were less likely to receive the flu vaccine in the prior year compared to those who had never received those types of alternative care. [6 Flu Vaccine Myths]

However, the researchers did not find significant differences in the rates of flu vaccinations between the kids who had ever received any of the other types of alternative care and those who had never received those types of care, according to the study, published today (Oct. 3) in the journal Pediatrics.

More research is needed to determine why exactly children who have received certain types of alternative treatments may be less likely to receive the flu vaccine, the researchers said.

The results suggest that practitioners of conventional medicine should ask their patients whether they use any alternative treatments and should aim to engage more with practitioners of alternative medicine to try to increase vaccination rates among children, the researchers said.

Originally published on Live Science.

Staff Writer