Parents are influenced by their social network, such as their health care providers, family members, friends, and the media, when making decisions about vaccinating their children.
The finding came from a new study published in the journal Pediatrics which examined the role these social networks have in parents' decisions about immunization.
The scientists said:
"Parents decide whether their children are vaccinated, but they rarely reach these decisions on their own. Instead parents are influenced by their social networks, broadly defined as the people and sources they go to for information, direction, and advice."
A different survey conducted by the University of Michigan in 2011 found that the majority of parents get their information about vaccines from their children's pediatricians, however, some also consider public health officials, other parents, friends and family members, and even celebrities as sources of vaccine information.
For the purpose of the new study, a team of researchers surveyed 196 parents in King County, Washington - an area which has low vaccination rates.
The participants were asked to list the people and other sources they received information from concerning immunization. The parents were then asked which sources had the biggest influence and listed what recommendations each gave.
The subjects also explained their vaccination decisions. The experts discovered that 126 complied with the suggested vaccine schedule while 70 parents did not.
The children of the non-conformers received one of the following:
- partial on-time vaccination
- partial vaccination on a delayed schedule
- complete but delayed vaccination
- complete non-vaccination
Under-immunization has been shown to considerably elevate the likelihood of contracting and spreading vaccine preventable diseases, such as measles.
Parents who did not conform to the suggested schedule had a greater number of people in their social networks who suggested not to comply with the vaccine schedule.
Seventy-two percent of the social networks of the non-conformers suggested to not conform, and just 13% of the networks of the conformers recommended not to.
The parents who did not conform were also more likely to look for information from sources such as:
- research articles
- the Internet
- media reports
"Interventions aimed at increasing vaccine acceptance should focus on these broader communities so that parents' spouses, family members and friends are also included."
Written by Sarah Glynn