Study examines the scientific evidence, political and social pressures parents face when vaccinating children
Deciding whether to vaccinate your child against SARS-CoV-2 is complex. Parents are influenced by everything from scientific evidence, political and social pressures, and views about individual versus collective benefits of vaccinating children says a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
In order to understand what influenced a parent’s decision to vaccinate a child – or not – researchers conducted a qualitative study with in-depth interviews with 20 parents. The aim of the study is to support future vaccination initiatives.
“Given the observed discrepancy between parental intention and the decision to vaccinate their children against SARS-CoV-2, it is important to understand how and why parents make their decisions,” explains Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto, and the University of Toronto.
“Understanding the factors that influence parents’ decisions about SARS-CoV-2 vaccination for their children would help improve public health policies and interventions as well as inform health care professionals about parents’ perspectives and concerns.”
Exploring decision-making regarding vaccinating children
There have only been a few previous studies that have looked at how parents make decisions to vaccinate or not vaccinate their children once they are eligible for vaccination.
Most parents involved in the study found the topic of vaccinating children a challenging one. Parents had the following considerations:
- How recent SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are evidence supporting their use
- Perceived politicization of vaccination guidance
- Societal pressures surrounding SARS-CoV-2 vaccination
- Weighing up the individual versus collective benefits of vaccination
These findings have implications for communicating information on SARS-CoV-2 vaccination.
“Future guidance should highlight both individual and collective benefits of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination for children; however, healthcare providers should prioritize individualized discussions with parents to help interpret evidence, consider their understanding of risks and benefits, and provide tailored recommendations,” said Dr. Janet Parsons, a research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto, and an associate professor at the University of Toronto.
Healthcare providers must support parental decision-making
Dr Parsons concludes, “It is important for health care providers to understand that parents who seem hesitant to vaccinate their children may have a variety of reasons for feeling this way and maybe reticent to ask questions to health care providers for fear of stigma”.
The authors recommend that these conversations surrounding vaccinating children are approached with empathy and openness.
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