Unpacking reasons behind parents’ refusal of vaccines


Parental refusal of vaccines is a growing concern for the increased occurrence of vaccine preventable diseases in children especially in developing countries. 

There are some reasons parents resist or refuse, delay or are hesitant to have their children vaccinated. The reasons vary widely amongst parents.

Vaccines play a vital role in preventing diseases in children, so it is of paramount importance for health professionals to understand the reasons that make parents hesitant or refuse to have their children vaccinated.

 Although there are no laws regarding vaccine administration, each country has statutes in place dictating which vaccinations are required for children prior entering schools.

Among some of the reasons for non-compliance to vaccination, religion tend to account for the majority of total vaccine refusal, while parents with personal beliefs against immunization tend to be more willing to compromise and at least partially vaccinate their children.

 Patents are concerned with doing the best for their children and hearing reports of potential safety issues.

 Religious reasons are distinct from other reasons in that they are generally linked to the core beliefs of parents and it is very difficult to dissuade these individuals from views against immunization.

These choices are not premised or are a by-product of ignorance but rather the intentional and calculated decision related to staunch conviction.

Another common reason parents give for refusing or delaying having their children vaccinated is personal or philosophical reasons.

 Some parents believe that natural immunity is better for their children than immunity acquired through vaccinations.

 Others express the belief that if their child contracts a preventable disease, it will be beneficial for the child in the long term, as it will help make the child’s immune system stronger as he grows into adulthood. 

Some parents believe that the diseases for which children are vaccinated against are not prevalent so their children are at minimal risk of contracting these diseases. 

For this reason, parents also believe that the possible negative side effects of vaccine administration outweigh the benefits of the vaccines. Many parents do not see the preventable diseases as serious or life-threatening and would prefer to not put extra chemicals into their children’s bodies.

 Other parents think if their children have healthy diets and lifestyles there are at decreased risk of contracting preventable childhood diseases.

  They are also under the assumption that if they were to contract one of the diseases then it would be easily treatable.

Parents also refuse vaccinations of their basing on the safety of vaccines. Mose of these concerns are based on information these parents discover in the media or received from acquaintances.

Regardless of whether the stories stem from television, the internet, radio or from family and friends, parents are constantly bombarded with people’s opinions about vaccinations. 

All of this information can be overwhelming for some parents to sift through, making it difficult for them to make their own well- informed decisions. 

Many of the reports and opinions that bombard parents cause uncertainty are targeted as the safety of vaccines. They raise doubts about both short-term adverse reactions and the possibility of long-term negative effects.

 It is these concerns about safety that can cause parents to completely resist or refuse the vaccinations or vaccines. Stories in the popular media, such as in the popular social media and large scale outlets are often sensationalized to elicit higher ratings and oftentimes spotlight a rare incident in which a child suffers as a result of unforeseen side effects of a vaccine.

Media which report that vaccines cause autism, brain damage, or behavioral problems cause parents to be more cautious and have more concerns regarding the safety of vaccines.

  Some fearful parents balk at the timing of immunization. Fear can influence some parents to choose to delay vaccination so that their children do not receive more than one vaccine at a time.

They fear that simultaneous administering multiple vaccines may overload their children’s immune systems and they think allowing all of the vaccination to occur according recommended schedule will make the safety risk great.

As a result of this logic, many choose to delay vaccines in order to better protect their children.

While some view this as a missed opportunity, others believe that a delayed vaccination schedule is superior to not receiving vaccination at all.  Many parents believe the side effects of vaccines are more extensive than what they benefit of vaccinating their children.

Healthy relationships between health workers and parents can go a long way towards helping parents in terms of their concerns. Trust is paramount and will help overcome unmerited fears.

 Parents want more information regarding vaccinations. They want to be able to make informed decisions about their children’s healthcare by knowing both the benefits and risks associated with each vaccine.

Patents desire more detailed information regarding the side effects and benefits associated with vaccines expressed in a factual way that does not appear to be trying to sway them one way or the other regarding vaccinating their children.

A vital role health professionals can play would involve the provision of unbiased, factual information relating to vaccines.

 Patents want to be able to have open conversations with health workers in which they do not feel judged or attacked. Patents would like to have freedom to be able to ask questions without judgement. When parents do not get the information they want from their health services providers, they seek information from other sources that can potentially mislead and misinform them, causing them to make poor choices for their children.

 If health workers are able to understand the main concerns parents have about vaccinating their children, they can be better prepared to have informative conversations about immunizations.

They will also be able to provide the information parents need to make the best-informed decisions for their children. Patents who are hesitant to vaccinate their children and want to do what they can to protect them, just like any other parent.

 It is important for health workers to have open and frank conversations with their clients and families so that the families will understand the benefits of vaccination without feeling attacked or judged for having questions about their children’s healthcare.

Health education and taking time with clients result in modest improvement in terms of affecting parents’ attitudes about immunization.

  All health workers should make efforts to stay up to date on recommended vaccines and to understand why those immunizations are recommended.  This information allows parents to have face to face access to reliable information that can make them to make best decisions for their children.

Morgen Makombo Sikwila

MSc Peace and Governance

BSc Counselling

Diploma in Environmental Health

Certificate in Marketing Management (0772823282)

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