Why do parents refuse to vaccinate their children?

by Mass02026 on November 7, 2016 - 9:47pm

In recent years the concern about childhood vaccinations has become a focus. For the most part in first world countries vaccinate-preventable diseased have greatly been reduced through routine vaccinated programs (Harmsen 2013). Despite the prevention these vaccines have had for people there are still parents who are apprehensive when it comes to giving their children these same vaccinations, there is even a small portion of parents who simply refuse. If these vaccines have been proven to help saves the lives of children, why wouldn’t parents want to give their children the upper hand? I know personally the doctor’s office was somewhere I wanted to be but I am grateful my parents vaccinated me and I think that is why I have been a fairly healthy child. There was a recent qualitative study using online focus groups conducted in 2013 that may give light to why some parents refuse to vaccinate their children. In total there were eight online focus groups of Dutch parents who had at least one child between the ages of 0 and 4 that they refused all or partial vaccinations within the National Immunization Program (NIP) (Harmsen 2013). For the families there were many reason why they chose not to have their child or children vaccinated, some of these factors included the family’s lifestyle, their perception of their child’s body and immune system, their perceived risk of disease, the vaccines efficacy or side effects and most commonly prior negative experiences with vaccinations. The use of an online focus group proved to be more than effective and provided researchers with useful data. The parents said they didn’t think the NIP provided them with sufficient information about what their children would be subjected to if they received the vaccination.


This study was conducted in the Netherlands where the National Immunization program is voluntary. This program however, does prove children free vaccinations against twelve infectious diseases (i.e., polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, rubella, measles, mumps, disease caused by Hemophilic influenza type b, meningococcal C disease, hepatitis B, pneumococcal disease and cervical cancer caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Children who are between 0 and 4 can go to the child welfare centers to receive their vaccines free of charge and also get a free health checkup by doctors and nurses. (Harmsen 2013) Though these vaccines are not required they are strongly suggested by the Dutch Health Council. The overall vaccination coverage in The Netherlands is 95% but that still isn’t 100%. (Harmsen 2013)


People believe the refusal of childhood vaccinations stems from the parents’ concerns about the vaccines components. Many doubt if the vaccines are even safe and effective. When asked during the study parents also said they looked at their child specifically when it came time to decide if they wanted to vaccinate them or not. They factored in things like if they themselves were vaccinated, how healthy the family was, and their child’s likelihood of potentially getting one of the diseases that could be prevented with a vaccine. Having the study be conducted online was essential since it would be merely impossible to try and have face-to-face conversations with people who live all over The Netherlands. The participants in the study were able to answer the questions on their own time and it required no outside travel time or costs. This also allowed them to have a random selection of people from all different areas. For the study the focus groups were left with a bunch of open ended questions which allowed the participants to reflect on all aspects of the question (Harmsen 2013). 


I thought this study was interesting because many parents are starting to wonder if childhood allergies and learning disabilities that were not as common before, but seem to be everywhere now could be liked to all the vaccinations children received from infancy into adulthood. Even though this study was conducted in The Netherlands it can reflect the concerns parents worldwide face. In America to enter a public school system you are required to have certain vaccinations. From personal experience my best friend’s parents opted not to have any of their 4 children vaccinated. Her mom thinks they are unnecessary and never wanted her children to get them. In school she would need a special doctor note and I always envied growing up how she never had to get the dreaded shpt. But also, she now frequently gets sick and is always in and out of the doctor’s office. The main question we have to ask is should something that is known to help prevent disease and sickness be required for all people or should there still be the option to decide.

For more about this study you can click the link:  http://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-13-1...

citation:Harmsen, I. A., Mollema, L., Ruiter, R. A., Paulussen, T. G., De Melker, H. E., & Kok, G. (2013, December 16). Why parents refuse childhood vaccination: A qualitative study using online focus groups. Retrieved November 05, 2016, from http://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-13-1183

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