Vaccine Education, Reasons for Refusal, and Vaccination Behavior


      Little is known about associations between the reasons parents refuse or delay vaccines for their children, their responsiveness to vaccine counseling, and their children's vaccination status at various ages. Since 2015, Michigan has required parents to attend education sessions at local health departments to receive nonmedical exemptions. This requirement provides an opportunity to study otherwise opaque aspects of vaccine refusal.


      In 2017 and 2018, researchers analyzed a combined data set that included electronic medical records (n=4,098) generated by one Michigan health department during 2015 immunization education sessions, and immunization records from an August 2016 report of the Michigan Care Improvement Registry immunization registry. Analyses employed difference of proportions and ANOVAs to explore group differences in vaccination behaviors after education sessions and on-time vaccination status at various ages.


      Children whose parents stated a commitment to an alternative schedule at the education session subsequently received a vaccine their parents had refused at a much higher rate (39.2%) than did children whose parents refused for reasons of religion (4.4%), concerns about the risks of vaccines (8.1%), or beliefs that vaccines provide little benefit (10.5%).


      Different reasons for refusal are associated with different patterns of vaccination behavior. Furthermore, results suggest that education sessions may overcome vaccine refusal in some cases, and that distinct refusal reasons mark real differences in parental motivations regarding vaccination choices. These differences in parental motivations may indicate the existence of different sites for potential pro-vaccination interventions.
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