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Vaccine. 2018 Sep 22. pii: S0264-410X(18)31296-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2018.09.036. [Epub ahead of print]

Perceptions of vaccination within a Christian homeschooling community in Pennsylvania.

Author information

1
Department of Global & Community Health, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA.
2
Department of Global & Community Health, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA. Electronic address: kjacobse@gmu.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

More than 1.8 million American children ages 5-17 are being educated at home. The percentage of school-aged children in the United States who are homeschooled increased from 1.7% in 1999 to 3.4% in 2012. Every state has established school-entry vaccination requirements for kindergarten students, but most states exempt homeschoolers from these regulations. The goal of this study was to use qualitative methods to examine the vaccination perceptions and practices of Christian homeschooling families in Pennsylvania.

METHODS:

A qualitative study (focus groups) of Christian homeschooling parents representing a diversity of vaccination practices (full, partial/delayed, and no vaccination) was conducted in south-central Pennsylvania in 2017. An analysis using a grounded theory approach identified themes that strongly aligned with constructs from the Health Belief Model.

RESULTS:

Many of the perspectives expressed by the study population aligned with those of the general American population, including uncertainty about the risk from vaccine-preventable diseases, concerns about the efficacy and safety of vaccines, and confusion about conflicting vaccine information. The Christian homeschooling parents expressed two especially prominent perceptions: a belief that they had a very low risk of contracting infectious diseases because God has provided them with the natural tools necessary for health and a stronger-than-typical sense of empowerment related to parental decision-making and autonomy. Participants expressed that they were generally open to honest communication about vaccination with physicians who respect parental authority.

CONCLUSIONS:

Homeschooling families have diverse vaccination practices. Pediatricians and other healthcare practitioners should not make assumptions about health beliefs in this community, and should instead engage parents in conversations about their risk perceptions and vaccine decisions.

KEYWORDS:

Adolescent; Child; Health attitudes; Health behaviors; Health knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Immunization; Parent; Vaccination

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