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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

How Parents Decide if They Should Vaccinate Their Kids Against COVID-19

If only they listened to doctors and scientists, not quacks on the internet


For parents, the decision to vaccinate their children against SARS-CoV-2 is influenced by multiple factors, including scientific evidence, political and social pressures, and beliefs about individual versus collective benefits. 

A recent study aimed to understand parents’ views about vaccination to aid future initiatives.

New study explores complexity of decision-making.

A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) on February 21 has found that the decision for parents to vaccinate their children against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is complex and multifaceted. 

The decision is influenced by a combination of factors, including scientific evidence, political and social pressures, and personal beliefs about the individual versus collective benefits of vaccination.

Researchers conducted a qualitative study with in-depth interviews of 20 parents to understand their views about SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, with a goal to support future vaccination initiatives.

“Given the observed discrepancy between parental intention and decision to vaccinate their children against SARS-CoV-2, it is important to understand how and why parents make their decisions,” said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto, and the University of Toronto.

“Understanding the factors that influence parents’ decisions about SARS-CoV-2 vaccination for their children would help improve public health policies and interventions as well as inform health care professionals about parents’ perspectives and concerns.”

Few previous studies have explored how parents make decisions to vaccinate, or not vaccinate, their children once eligible for vaccination.

The decision was challenging for most parents in the study. Parents’ considerations related to the following:

  • The newness of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and evidence supporting their use
  • Perceived politicization of guidance for vaccination
  • Social pressures around SARS-CoV-2 vaccination
  • Weighing of individual versus collective benefits of vaccination

These findings have implications for communicating information on SARS-CoV-2 vaccination.

“Future guidance should highlight both individual and collective benefits of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination for children; however, health care providers should prioritize individualized discussions with parents to help interpret evidence, consider their understanding of risks and benefits, and provide tailored recommendations,” said Dr. Janet Parsons, a research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto, and an associate professor at the University of Toronto.

Healthcare providers have a key role to play in supporting parents in decision-making.

“It is important for health care providers to understand that parents who seem hesitant to vaccinate their children may have a variety of reasons for feeling this way and may be reticent to ask questions to health care providers for fear of stigma,” said Dr. Parsons. The authors recommend that these conversations be approached with empathy and openness.

Reference: “Parents’ perspectives on SARS-CoV-2 vaccinations for children: a qualitative analysis” by Jannah Wigle, Kathryn Hodwitz, Clara Juando-Prats, Kate Allan, Xuedi Li, Lisa Howard, Barbara Fallon, Catherine S. Birken, Jonathon L. Maguire and Janet A. Parsons, 21 February 2023, Canadian Medical Association Journal.
DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.221401

Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research