Parents concerned about vaccine safety: Differences in race/ethnicity and attitudes

Am J Prev Med. 2006 Sep;31(3):244-51. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2006.04.006. Epub 2006 Jul 13.


Background: Parental concerns about immunization safety have been covered widely in the media and on the Internet and have been correlated in some studies with under-immunization and the late receipt of immunizations.

Objectives: Phase 1: To (1) measure the prevalence of parents with immunization safety concern, specifically those with high-level concern, (2) determine demographic characteristics and attitudes typical for this subgroup of parents, and (3) determine factors that influence such parents, nevertheless, to have their children immunized. Phase 2: To further explore the racial/ethnic difference found in the first-phase results, specifically to compare the immunization attitudes of Hispanic (both black and white) and non-Hispanic black parents with those of non-Hispanic white parents.

Methods: ConsumerStyles (2004) survey data of a nationwide panel of U.S. adults were analyzed in January 2006. In Phase 1, bivariate and logistic regression analyses were used to identify factors associated with parental concerns about immunization safety. In Phase 2, logistic regression was used to compare immunization attitudes among non-Hispanic black; Hispanic (both black and white); and non-Hispanic white parents.

Results: The response rate was 62% (6207/10,000); analysis was restricted to the 2937 (47%) respondents who were parents with a child aged 18 years or younger; 634 (21%) responded with the highest level of concern, 5 on a 1-to-5-point scale. Demographics (Hispanic ethnicity/nonwhite race, low income, and less education) and negative attitudes toward immunization and the child's healthcare provider were significantly associated with high-level concern. Seventy-two percent of parents with high-level concern responded that the risk of a child getting a disease was their primary reason for having their child immunized, while 17% listed state laws requiring immunizations for school/daycare entry. Importantly, black parents were more likely than white parents to have negative attitudes toward immunizations and their child's healthcare provider.

Conclusions: One fifth of parents reported high-level concern with the safety of childhood immunizations. To prevent the erosion of childhood immunization rates, healthcare providers need to learn how to recognize and address these concerns.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / psychology
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Humans
  • Immunization / psychology*
  • Income
  • Logistic Models
  • Parents / psychology*
  • United States
  • Vaccines / adverse effects*


  • Vaccines