Why do parents decide against immunization? The effect of health beliefs and health professionals

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ObjectivesTo explore the knowledge, attitudes and concerns with respect to immunization and vaccine-preventable infections in parents whose children have not completed the recommended course of immunization.SettingParents of children resident in the London Borough of Hackney.MethodsChildren born between 1 January 1999 and 15 February 1999 were identified from the child health database, and cases were defined as those who had defaulted for one or more primary immunization by 18 months of age. After validation of immunization status from health records, questionnaires were sent to parents. Ten respondents from this sample were interviewed.ResultsQuestionnaires were sent to 129 parents of children identified as not completing the recommended immunization course. Nine questionnaires were returned ‘address unknown’, and 76 parents returned the completed questionnaire. The response rate from known residents was 76/110 (69%). Eight parents stated that their child had been immunized, leaving 68 questionnaires available for further analysis. Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and meningococcal C were most frequently omitted, usually because of concerns about vaccine safety. Twenty-three out of 68 respondents perceived that having their child immunized with a particular vaccine was more risky than non-immunization, particularly for MMR and meningococcal C vaccines. Those who agreed to be interviewed were notably concerned about the MMR vaccine, but not immunization in general. They perceived the information provided by health professionals to be poor.ConclusionsThe decision-making process around childhood immunization is complex. Parents require information that is up to date, tailored to their individual needs and provided by health professionals who are well informed.

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