Background: Thanks to a successful voluntary vaccination programme, measles, mumps and rubella are rare diseases in Sweden. Coverage among children 18 mo of age has been 99%, but the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination (MMR) has increasingly been questioned among parents.
Aim: To study reasons why parents choose not to vaccinate their child against measles, mumps and rubella, and their opinions on vaccines and the diseases themselves. A secondary objective was to compare coverage at 18 mo of age based on parental report with the national statistics based on patient charts.
Methods: The official statistics were compared with patient charts for two birth cohorts in the city of Göteborg, Sweden. Out of these children born in 1995 and 1996, 300 unvaccinated and vaccinated children were identified. Their parents received a postal questionnaire assessing the parent's views on vaccines and childhood diseases.
Results: The documented vaccine coverage in this study was higher in 1995 and 1996 than official statistics indicated. The major reason, for both groups, for accepting respectively declining vaccination was strengthening the child's immune system. Parents with children unvaccinated against MMR were also more likely to have declined vaccination against diphtheria, polio, tetanus, Haemophilus influenzae and pertussis. One-third of the parents with a child unvaccinated against MMR had not yet made their final decision 3 y after the vaccine offer. Few parents, both with vaccinated and unvaccinated children, had acquired vaccine information from the Internet. Both groups believed that insufficient time was allocated for vaccine information and discussion at the Child Health Centre.
Conclusion: Our study indicates that official statistics on MMR vaccination uptake underestimate the number of vaccinated children. Vaccine safety is a major concern for many parents and needs to be addressed by healthcare professionals at institutions offering paediatric vaccinations.