How parents make decisions about their children's vaccinations

Vaccine. 2013 Nov 4;31(46):5466-70. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.08.104. Epub 2013 Sep 25.


Background: Continued parental acceptance of childhood vaccination is essential for the maintenance of herd immunity and disease prevention. As such, understanding parents' decision-making in relation to their children's vaccinations is vitally important.

Objective: This qualitative study sought to develop an understanding of the general process parents go through when making decisions about their children's vaccinations.

Methods: Interviews were conducted with U.S.-born parents living in King County, Washington who had children ≤18 months of age. These interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim.

Results: Through the application of grounded theory, a general decision-making process was identified. Stages in this process included: awareness, assessing and choosing, followed by either stasis or ongoing assessment. The greatest variation occurred during the assessing stage, which involved parents examining vaccination-related issues to make subsequent decisions. This research suggests that three general assessment groups exist: acceptors, who rely primarily on general social norms to make their vaccination decisions; reliers, who rely primarily on other people for information and advice; and searchers, who seek for information on their own, primarily from published sources.

Conclusions: These results imply that one-size-fits-all approaches to vaccination interventions are inappropriate. Instead, this research suggests that interventions must be targeted to parents based on how they assess vaccination.

Keywords: Decision-making; Parents; Qualitative research; VPD; Vaccination; vaccine preventable diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Parents*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Washington
  • Young Adult