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Public Underst Sci. 2008 Apr;17(2):231-43.

Parental views on pediatric vaccination: the impact of competing advocacy coalitions.

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  • 1Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada.


The debate on pediatric vaccination policy has been characterized by the presence of two distinct coalitions: those in favor of current vaccination policies and those expressing concern about these policies. The target of these coalitions is the vaccination decision of parents. To determine their influence, we conducted four focus groups in Toronto, Canada examining parental decision-making concerning pediatric vaccination. Our focus groups consisted of both fathers and mothers and parents who fully vaccinated and those who did not. Using the Advocacy Coalition Framework as an analytic guide, we identified several themes that provided insights into how effective the two coalitions have been in conveying their viewpoints. In general, we identified a variety of levels of belief systems existing amongst parents concerned about vaccination, some more amenable to change than others. We found that the choice to not vaccinate was largely a result of concerns about safety and, to a lesser extent, about lack of effectiveness. These parental views reflected the ability of the coalition concerned about vaccination to challenge parents' trust in traditional public health sources of information. In contrast, the parental decision to vaccinate was due to recognizing the importance of preventing disease and also a consequence of not questioning recommendations from public health and physicians and feeling pressured to because of school policies. Importantly, parents who fully vaccinate appear to have weaker belief systems that are potentially susceptible to change. While current policies appear to be effective in encouraging vaccination, if trust in public health falters, many who currently support vaccination may reevaluate their position. More research needs to be conducted to identify approaches to communicate the risks and benefits of vaccination to parents.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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