Date Published: November 20, 2012
Publisher: Hindawi Publishing Corporation
Author(s): Irene A. Harmsen, Robert A. C. Ruiter, Theo G. W. Paulussen, Liesbeth Mollema, Gerjo Kok, Hester E. de Melker.
In recent years, parents have become more disparaging towards childhood vaccination. One group that is critical about the National Immunization Program (NIP) and participates less comprises parents with an anthroposophical worldview. Despite the fact that various studies have identified anthroposophists as critical parents with lower vaccination coverage, no research has been done to explore the beliefs underlying their childhood vaccination decision-making. We conducted a qualitative study using three focus groups (n = 16) of parents who visit an anthroposophical child welfare center. Our findings show that participants did not refuse all vaccinations within the Dutch NIP, but mostly refused the Mumps, Measles, and Rubella (MMR) vaccination. Vaccination decisions are influenced by participants’ lifestyle, perception of health, beliefs about childhood diseases, perceptions about the risks of diseases, perceptions about vaccine effectiveness and vaccine components, and trust in institutions. Parents indicated that they felt a need for more information. Sufficient references should be provided to sources containing more information about childhood vaccination, especially about the effectiveness of vaccines and vaccine components and the risks, such as possible side effects and benefits of vaccination. This may satisfy parents’ information needs and enable them to make a sufficiently informed choice whether or not to vaccinate their child.
In recent years, parents have become more disparaging towards childhood vaccination . Different studies show reasons why parents are critical and sometimes refuse vaccination for their children. These include anxiety about side effects, the perception that vaccine-preventable diseases are not serious, and a lack of trust in herd immunity . This suggests that parents who refuse vaccination are concerned about long-term health problems as a result of vaccination  and have doubts about the safety of vaccines . However, these factors vary between different groups of parents who may refuse vaccination. One of the groups who is critical about the National Immunization Program (NIP) and participates less comprises parents with an anthroposophical worldview.
This study explored factors that influenced vaccination decision-making among parents with an anthroposophical worldview. Our findings show that parents in this study did not refuse all Dutch NIP vaccinations, but mostly refused the MMR vaccination. The participants made a deliberate decision whether or not to vaccinate. This is not in line with 81% of Dutch parents who are reported to make no comparative assessment of vaccinations . The vaccination decisions of parents in this study are related to their lifestyle, perception of health, beliefs about childhood diseases, risk perception of the diseases, perceptions about vaccine components and vaccine effectiveness, and trust in institutions.
This study showed that anthroposophical parents in this study are not opposed to vaccination in general. Their decision is not solely based on weighing the risks of vaccination against those of nonvaccination; it also depends on the parents’ lifestyle and views about healthy child development. Parents in this study reported a need for information about childhood vaccination. However, not all parents want the same amount of information that these parents require. Layered information might therefore be an appropriate method to fulfill the information need of all parents. Sufficient references to sources containing more information about childhood vaccination should be provided, especially regarding the effectiveness of vaccines and vaccine components and the benefits and risks of vaccination, such as the possible side effects. This may satisfy parents’ information needs and enable them to make a sufficiently informed choice whether or not to vaccinate their child. Further research is needed on how this information can best reach the parents who need it and if the information geared towards anthroposophical parents should be different from information geared towards parents that refuse childhood vaccination in general.