Vaccinating Children: Do We Do It For The Benefit Of Others? [Study]

Herd immunity is an important benefit in child immunization, but experts don’t have much understanding regarding what influences parents in their decision-making process to immunize their children. A new study in the August issue of Pediatrics attempts to understand just that, specifically regarding whether the benefit to others counts as an influence on parent motivation for child immunization.

In the study, researchers combed Medline through October 2010 for articles concerning parent-guardian decision-making with regard to child immunization. Studies selected presented original work, specifically ones that included responses from parents and guardians of children that addressed child immunization benefits to others.

Out of 5,876 titles, 91 articles were selected for systematic review. Twenty-nine of those selected met the criteria of the study, with 17 identifying benefit to others as one of the motivating factors for child immunization in interviews or focus groups. Of those, nine of the studies found that benefit to others was a factor in the decision-making process, but they didn’t rank the decision in importance.

In three studies, the importance of the benefit to others was ranked and showed that one to six percent of parents consider child immunization’s benefit to others as the primary reason to vaccinate their kids. Just as significant, 37 percent of parents ranked the benefit to others as the second most important factor in the decision-making process.

In the end, it seems that a sizable population of parents are indeed willing to immunize their children for the benefit of others, whether as a primary or secondary motive. Still, the authors call for further research into the subject:

“Specifically, qualitative studies are needed to explore how individual providers and public health initiatives can present the idea of childhood vaccination as a benefit to others, without suggesting that parents consider the welfare of others above that of their own child.”

The full study is available in the new issue of Pediatrics.