Background: Since the 20th Century, immunizations have been an integral part of reducing the transmission of communicable diseases. Despite these successes, the State of Utah identified the concerning trend of parents exempting their children from receiving childhood vaccinations. From 1997-2004 immunization exemptions increased from 1.2% to 3.0% in Utah (Green & Lee, 2006). Utah is one of a few states that allow parents to exempt their children from vaccinations based on philosophical belief. Most exempting parents, have specific concerns about the safety of vaccines (Green & Lee, 2006).
Objectives: To identify the common reasons why Utah parents exempt their children from receiving vaccinations, thus allowing for future educational efforts to address these parental concerns.
Methods: In the State of Utah, parents requesting a philosophical exemption must obtain the form from county health departments. The researchers obtained IRB approval. Then, parents requesting a philosophical exemption form at county health departments in 2006 were asked to complete in a short questionnaire including questions regarding the rationale for the exemption.
Results: The most common reasons parents exempted their children from receiving immunizations included concerns about autism, overloading the immune system, concerns about chronic disease, and “reactions” to the vaccine. Varicella and Hepatitis A were the vaccines most commonly exempted. Most of exempting parents had already discussed their concerns with their healthcare provider. Almost half of parents researched the safety of childhood immunizations on the internet before requesting an exemption form.
Conclusions: Educational strategies must dispel myths regarding childhood immunizations. Popular anti-vaccine websites should be examined and then accurate information should be promoted. Furthermore, parents need to understand the importance of following the CDC’s immunization schedule. Often, parents express the desire to procrastinate their child’s immunizations until the child’s immune system is “stronger,” although the parents do not understand that infants are in the highest risk group.