Background: California's Senate Bill 277 (SB-277) law eliminated the personal belief exemption to school immunization requirements. A potential consequence may be that parents choose homeschooling to avoid immunization. Vaccine attitudes and behaviors have not been well studied among the home-schooling population. This study explored the effect of SB-277 and vaccine decision-making among California home schoolers.
Methods: Purposive and snowball sampling were used recruit home-schooling parents through home-schooling Facebook groups based on home school type in high-exemption regions in California for in-depth interviews. Participants had to have a child in a legalized form of homeschooling in California in grades kindergarten-twelfth grade.
Results: Twenty-four mothers were interviewed. Participants were categorized based on self-reported vaccine attitudes and behavior into three groups: Confident and Accepting, Hesitant and Accepting, and Skeptical and Refusing. All reported the belief that SB-277 is an infringement on parental rights but was not currently impacting them. Confident and Accepting mothers (n = 10) generally believed vaccinations were safe, effective, and posed a lower risk than vaccine preventable disease (VPD). Hesitant and Accepting mothers (n = 5) expressed varying confidence levels in the belief that vaccinations were safe and effective, were not confident in the belief that vaccination posed lower risks than VPD risk, and risk perception affected vaccine decision-making. Skeptical and Refusing mothers (n = 9) generally believed that vaccinations were unsafe and ineffective, refused select vaccines, believed that vaccination posed a more serious risk than VPD risks, and belief of vaccine harm was a salient factor in vaccine decision-making.
Conclusion: Home-schooling mothers were concerned about SB-277 but did not report that it was directly impacting their children, their vaccine decisions, or reason to home school. Vaccine attitudes and beliefs among homeschooling mothers broadly fell into categories similar to parents of non-home-schooled children. Future quantitative studies should measure vaccine hesitancy and refusal prevalence and potential confounders.
Keywords: Exemptions; Home school; SB-277; Vaccine hesitancy; Vaccine safety.
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