Background: Continued low childhood influenza immunization rates indicate that significant barriers to immunization remain among parents.
Objectives: 1) Identify key reasons parents forego annual influenza immunization for their children 2) Identify immunization messages that resonate most strongly with parents.
Methods: Insights from focus groups (mothers) and pediatrician interviews informed the development of a national telephone survey. Five-hundred mothers living with children age 6 months through 18 years participated. Opinion Research Company fielded interviews in late August 2009.
Results: “Magical” or “wishful” beliefs that immunization is “unnecessary” represent a significant barrier for mothers who do not regularly immunize their children against influenza. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said “healthy children don’t need to be vaccinated” and over half (57%) agreed “other ways to avoid influenza are just as effective.” Just over half (52%) forego immunization because the pediatrician “left it up to them.” Concerns about the influenza vaccine itself were less significant. Mothers who regularly have their children immunized and those who do not responded similarly to messages aimed at breaking down barriers. Messages emphasizing that influenza’s severity and the possibility of death (even in healthy children) were most motivating. Statements stressing impact on family functioning, vaccine safety and efficacy, and those that framed immunization as a mother’s “choice” also resonated.
Conclusions: A multi-pronged messaging approach is recommended to address identified influenza immunization barriers. Insights will be incorporated into communications programs aimed at parents and healthcare professionals, with the goal of breaking down existing barriers and motivating more parents to seek annual influenza immunization for their children.
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