Review: Altruism's influence on parental decision to vaccinate children is unclear

September 11, 2012

As outbreaks of preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles increase in the United States, researchers from the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine are investigating whether altruism, known to influence adults' decisions to immunize themselves, influences parental decisions to vaccinate their children.

"If enough people are immunized against a particular disease, it prevents outbreaks of that disease and protects the community. This is known as herd immunity, and it's a very important benefit of ," said Regenstrief Institute affiliated scientist S. Maria Finnell, M.D., M.S., IU School of Medicine assistant professor of pediatrics. "But as we are seeing more vaccine-hesitant parents, we need to better understand the factors that influence parents' decisions to immunize their children so that pediatricians can effectively communicate to them the importance of the recommended shots."

As a first step in their investigation, the researchers, led by Dr. Finnell, conducted a -based analysis of peer-reviewed studies on parental decision-making regarding child immunization and found no study designed with the primary focus on "benefit to others" as a motivating factor. Their findings are reported in "The Role of Herd Immunity in Parents' Decision to Vaccinate Children: A Systematic Review," published in the September issue of Pediatrics, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"Studies have shown that benefit to others is an effective motivator for adults to vaccinate themselves," said Regenstrief Institute investigator Stephen M. Downs, M.D., M.S., associate professor of pediatrics and director of Children's Health Services Research at the IU School of Medicine. "However, our review determined that it is not known whether the role of herd immunity—immunizing to benefit the community—plays a role in parents' decision regarding immunizing their children."

Now that they have reviewed the medical literature and found it inconclusive, Drs. Finnell and Downs and their co-investigators are completing a study to determine whether varying how immunization messages are framed influences vaccine-hesitant parents.

Explore further: Washington pediatricians receive regular requests for alternative child immunization schedules

Related Stories

Washington pediatricians receive regular requests for alternative child immunization schedules

November 28, 2011
Seventy-seven percent of Washington state pediatricians report that they are sometimes or frequently asked to provide alternative childhood vaccine schedules for their patients, according to a new study from Seattle Children's ...

Pediatric flu vaccination: Understanding low acceptance rates could help increase coverage

April 28, 2011
A study of H1N1 and seasonal influenza vaccination in a sample of black and Hispanic children in Atlanta found a low rate of vaccine acceptance among parents and caregivers. Only 36 percent of parents and caregivers indicated ...

Recommended for you

Study shows probiotics can prevent sepsis in infants

August 17, 2017
A research team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health has determined that a special mixture of good bacteria in the body reduced the incidence of sepsis in infants in India by 40 percent at ...

Children who sleep an hour less at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, says study

August 15, 2017
A study has found that children who slept on average one hour less a night had higher risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including higher levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance.

Low blood sugars in newborns linked to later difficulties

August 8, 2017
A newborn condition affecting one in six babies has been linked to impairment in some high-level brain functions that shows up by age 4.5 years.

Can breast milk feed a love of vegetables?

August 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—Want your preschooler to eat veggies without a fuss? Try eating veggies while you're breast-feeding.

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.