Parents’ reasons for not vaccinating children influence public attitudes

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 59 , No. 6 , July August 2017 , Pages 325 News

Mothers are viewed negatively if their child hasn’t been vaccinated, no matter the reason. But mothers who outright refuse to vaccinate their children are viewed in a harsher light compared to those who delay vaccines because of safety concerns or who aren’t up to date due to time constraints. That’s one finding of a UBC study that examined attitudes toward children who haven’t received their vaccinations and toward their parents.

For the study the researchers used data collected from an online survey conducted from 29 June to 2 July 2015 that involved 1469 US respondents randomly assigned to read one of four scenarios:

1. A mother who has concerns about vaccinations and has refused to vaccinate her child.
2. A mother who has concerns about vaccinations and has decided to delay some. 
3. A mother who has no concerns about vaccinations but her job and family demands have made it difficult to stay up-to-date with medical appointments. 
4. A mother who has no concerns and has ensured her child always receives recommended vaccinations (the control group).

Researchers focused on mothers in each scenario because they are often the primary decision-makers when it comes to their children’s health. After reading each scenario survey respondents were asked questions that measured attitudes such as blame toward the mother if the child or others became sick, and how willing respondents would be to make friends with the mother or let their children socialize with the undervaccinated child. The survey also measured respondents’ support for public policies that aim to boost vaccination rates, such as providing greater vaccination education and services or banning undervaccinated children from school.

Researchers found that respondents also stigmatized both the parent and their undervaccinated child, regardless of the reason they weren’t up-to-date on vaccinations. These respondents were also more likely to support stricter public policies such as banning undervaccinated children from schools to increase vaccination rates.

Authors of the study believe that to effectively address low child vaccination rates, it’s important to understand not only the parents’ motivations but also how the general public views both undervaccinated children and their parents. The study was published in Social Science and Medicine (www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953617303088).

. Parents’ reasons for not vaccinating children influence public attitudes. BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 6, July, August, 2017, Page(s) 325 - News.



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