Multiple factors influence whether or not parents choose to immunize their children against SARS-CoV-2, including scientific evidence, political and social pressures, and beliefs about individual or collective benefits. A recent study aimed to understand parents' opinions about future vaccinations.
A new paper 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 number of factors, including scientific evidence, political and social pressures, and personal beliefs about the individual versus collective benefits of immunization.
Researchers conducted a qualitative interview with 20 parents to understand their views about SARS-CoV-2 immunization, with a goal to assist future immunization campaigns.
It is important to understand how and why parents make their decisions about SARS-CoV-2 immunization, according to Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician at the University of Toronto. "Understanding the factors that influence parents' beliefs and concerns about public health," says the study.
Once eligible for immunization, few previous investigations have explored how parents make the decision to vaccinate or not their children.
The majority of parents in the study felt that making the decision was difficult. The following questions were asked by parents:
- 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 the dissemination of information about SARS-CoV-2 immunization.
"Future recommendations should highlight individual and collective advantages of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination for children; however, health care providers should prioritize individual discussions with parents to help interpret evidence, consider their perspectives on risks and benefits, and make customized recommendations," said Dr. Janet Parsons, a research scientist at St. Michael's Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto.
Healthcare providers have a significant role to play in assisting parents in their decision-making.
Dr. Parsons believes it is vital for health care providers to recognize that parents who are reluctant to immunize their children may have a variety of reasons for this feeling and may be reluctant to ask questions due to fear of stigma.
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, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 21 February 2023. DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.221401
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