Background: Many American children receive their first set of vaccinations, but fail to return for subsequent vaccinations in a timely manner. Procrastination of childhood vaccinations can negatively impact the overall health of a community and its members. In a recent study, over 1/3 of parents reported they delayed childhood vaccinations because of anxiety regarding vaccinations. In order to promote timely vaccination of children, it is necessary to identify specific triggers of parental anxiety regarding childhood vaccinations and promote strategies whereby parents can overcome their feelings of anxiety.
Objectives: To identify common causes of parental anxiety regarding childhood vaccinations and review strategies to help parents overcome their anxiety, thus promoting timely vaccination of children.
Methods: After obtaining IRB approval, parents signed an informed consent and were then interviewed in a one hour focus group. Eligible parents self-reported they were late in vaccinating their children because of personal anxiety regarding the vaccination process.
Results: Causes of parental anxiety regarding vaccination depended on the child’s stage in the vaccination process: pre-vaccination, during vaccination, or post-vaccination. Pre-vaccination: included the decision-making process of whether or not to immunize, vaccine safety concerns, and distrust regarding the motivation of vaccine manufacturers. During vaccination: included the child’s pain and crying, not knowing the “ingredients” in the syringe, and obligation to assist with restraining the child. Post-vaccination: included the side effects listed on the Vaccine Information Sheets and interruptions to their regular routine because of child’s post-vaccine illness.
Conclusions: Health care providers should be aware of the common causes of parental anxiety regarding childhood vaccines, and utilize strategies to help parents overcome this barrier to timely vaccination. Implications for clinical practice include providing parents with trusted and reliable sources of information, reviewing the “pros and cons” prior to vaccine administration, and providing support after discharge from the clinic.