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01.12.2019 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2019

Maternal perceptions of childhood vaccination: explanations of reasons for and against vaccination

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2019
Deborah A. McNeil, Melissa Mueller, Shannon MacDonald, Sheila McDonald, Vineet Saini, James D. Kellner, Suzanne Tough



Understanding reasons for and against vaccination from the parental perspective is critical for designing vaccination campaigns and informing other interventions to increase vaccination uptake in Canada. The objective of this study was to understand maternal vaccination decision making for children.


Mothers participating in a longitudinal community-based pregnancy cohort, the All Our Babies study in Calgary, Alberta, completed open-ended survey questions providing explanations for the vaccination status of their child by 24 months postpartum. Qualitative responses were linked to administrative vaccination records to examine survey responses and recorded child vaccination status.


There were 1560 open-ended responses available; 89% (n = 1391) provided explanations for vaccinating their children, 5% (n = 79) provided explanations for not vaccinating/delaying, and 6% (n = 90) provided explanations for both. Themes were similar for those vaccinating and not vaccinating/delaying; however, interpretations were different. Two broad themes were identified: Sources of influence and Deliberative Processes. Sources of influence on decision making included personal, family, and external experiences. Deliberative Processes included risk, research, effectiveness, and balancing risks/benefits. Under Deliberative Processes, responsibility was a category for those vaccinating; while choice, instrumental/practical, and health issues were categories for those not vaccinating/delaying. Mothers’ levels of conviction and motivation provided a Context for understanding their decision making perspectives.


Vaccination decision making is complex and impacted by many factors that are similar but contribute to different decisions depending on mothers’ perspectives. The results of this study indicate the need to examine new intervention approaches to increase uptake that recognize and address feelings of pressure and parental commitment to choice.
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