Objective: Vaccine safety concerns can diminish parents' willingness to vaccinate their children. The objective of this study was to characterize the current prevalence of parental vaccine refusal and specific vaccine safety concerns and to determine whether such concerns were more common in specific population groups.
Methods: In January 2009, as part of a larger study of parents and nonparents, 2521 online surveys were sent to a nationally representative sample of parents of children who were aged </=17 years. The main outcome measures were parental opinions on vaccine safety and whether the parent had ever refused a vaccine that a doctor recommended for his or her child.
Results: The response rate was 62%. Most parents agreed that vaccines protect their child(ren) from diseases; however, more than half of the respondents also expressed concerns regarding serious adverse effects. Overall, 11.5% of the parents had refused at least 1 recommended vaccine. Women were more likely to be concerned about serious adverse effects, to believe that some vaccines cause autism, and to have ever refused a vaccine for their child(ren). Hispanic parents were more likely than white or black parents to report that they generally follow their doctor's recommendations about vaccines for their children and less likely to have ever refused a vaccine. Hispanic parents were also more likely to be concerned about serious adverse effects of vaccines and to believe that some vaccines cause autism.
Conclusions: Although parents overwhelmingly share the belief that vaccines are a good way to protect their children from disease, these same parents express concerns regarding the potential adverse effects and especially seem to question the safety of newer vaccines. Although information is available to address many vaccine safety concerns, such information is not reaching many parents in an effective or convincing manner.