Changing attitudes to childhood immunisation in English parents

Vaccine. 2017 May 19;35(22):2979-2985. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2017.03.089. Epub 2017 Apr 23.


Objectives: We undertook a national survey of parental attitudes to childhood vaccinations and compared results with those in earlier comparable surveys covering a 10year period.

Methods: We randomly selected 275 nationally representative sampling locations in England. Interviewers identified eligible primary care givers (referred to as parents) of children aged from 2months to <5years and conducted home-based interviews between January and April 2015. We aimed to recruit 1000 parents of children aged 0-2years and 1000 of children aged 3-4years. The questionnaire covered all aspects of the immunisation process, vaccines administered in pregnancy and from infancy to pre-school with a maximum of 86 mixed questions.

Results: Interviews were completed with 1792 parents of whom 1130 had children aged 0-2years and 999 had children aged 3-4years; 337 had children of both ages. The findings showed that confidence in and acceptance of the vaccination programme was high. Only 2% of parents reported refusing vaccination whilst 90% reported vaccinating their children automatically when due. Almost all parents (97%) had access to the internet and 34% consulted web-based resources for information on vaccination. Parents who used chat rooms or discussion forums for this purpose were significantly more likely to say they had seen something that would make them doubt having their child(ren) immunised (31% compared to 8% amongst all parents). Health professionals and the NHS were seen as the most trusted source of advice on immunisation (90% agreed/strongly agreed with each). Very few parents did not trust these sources (4% and 3% disagreed, respectively).

Conclusions: Health professionals remain extremely important in communicating information about vaccination and are highly trusted by parents; a trust that has increased in recent years. Despite most parents seeking information on the Internet, trust in and advice from health care professionals appeared to be key factors influencing parental decisions.

Keywords: Acceptability; Childhood; Confidence; Immunisation; Trust; Vaccination.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • England
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice / ethnology*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Immunization / psychology*
  • Immunization Programs
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult