Parental vaccine safety concerns. The experiences of pediatricians and family physicians

Am J Prev Med. 2004 Jan;26(1):11-4. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2003.09.004.


Objectives: Recently several concerns regarding vaccine safety have received significant media attention. Primary care physicians are the most common interface for parents with the immunization delivery system and are likely to have the greatest opportunity for exposure and experience with parental vaccine safety concerns.

Methods: Mail survey study of a national random sample of 750 pediatricians (PDs) and 750 family physicians (FPs) was conducted in 2000. Outcome variables of primary interest included the number of parental vaccine refusals in the past year, frequency of specific parent vaccine safety concerns, and actions taken by physicians when parents refused a vaccine. Chi-square analysis was used to determine the significance of the association of each outcome variable of interest with physician specialty, frequency of vaccine refusal, and the demographic variables. Multivariate analysis explored the potential for independent predictors of physicians who experienced increases in vaccine refusal.

Results: The response rate was 70%. Overall, 93% of PDs and 60% of FPs reported at least one parental vaccine refusal in their practice in the past year. PDs also were more likely than FPs to report an increase in the number of vaccine refusals over the past year (18% v 8%, p =0.01), while FPs were more likely to report a decrease in vaccine refusals over the same time period (18% v 11%; p <0.5). PDs were more likely than FPs to provide additional information regarding vaccines to parents who refused vaccines and/or to discuss the issue at later visits. The most common concerns of parents were related to short-term reactions and pain from multiple injections.

Conclusions: While almost all PDs and most FPs experienced at least one vaccine refusal from parents in the past year, far fewer physicians of both specialties observed an increase in their occurrence. Physicians must work to be consistently well informed of both the benefits of immunization as well as the issues of parental concern regarding vaccine safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pediatrics
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Safety*
  • Vaccines / adverse effects*


  • Vaccines