Results Summary

PCORI funded the Pilot Projects to explore how to conduct and use patient-centered outcomes research in ways that can better serve patients and the healthcare community. Learn more.

Background

Many parents are concerned about the vaccines that doctors give to children. Around 1 in 10 parents delay or refuse one or more vaccines for their children. One of the main concerns parents have is that children get too many vaccines at a time during a doctor’s visit.

Understanding parents’ views and preferences about vaccines for their children can help improve decisions by doctors and policy makers about how vaccines are given.

Project Purpose

The research team wanted to

  • Describe parents’ views on how to improve the process of giving vaccines to children
  • Understand why parents do not follow the standard times that children get vaccines

See how parents felt about different ways that vaccines could be scheduled for children

Methods

Researchers asked parents from all over the country with children aged 6 months to 59 months to complete a survey on a website.

The survey asked parents how they have chosen to vaccinate their children. The parents could respond to the questions with one of six options:

  • “I have generally or always followed my doctor’s recommendations.”
  • “I have followed a different schedule that specifies which vaccines my child gets and when he gets them.”
  • “I don’t follow a specific schedule, but I have a general approach in mind for choosing which vaccines my child will get and when.”
  • “I don’t have a predetermined plan for vaccines—I decide about each vaccine at each visit.”
  • “My child has not had any vaccinations.”
  • “I have done something else.”

The survey then asked parents about how they plan to vaccinate their children, the most important reason for this plan, and how to improve the vaccination experience. The survey also asked parents to rate how much they liked different vaccine schedule options.

Findings

In total, 1,222 parents responded to the survey. Twelve percent of parents reported using nonstandard schedules:

  • 6 percent of parents chose, “I don’t follow a specific schedule, but I have a general approach in mind for choosing which vaccines my child will get and when.”
  • 3.2 percent of parents chose, “I have followed a different schedule that specifies which vaccines my child gets and when he gets them.”
  • 2.5 percent of parents chose, “My child has not had any vaccinations.”

Parents gave two main reasons that they did not follow the standard schedule for children’s vaccines:

  • They believed that children get too many vaccines at once.
  • They were worried about ingredients in the vaccines.

A little less than half of parents who said they do not get vaccines on the standard schedule said that they want more choices, and about a quarter said they needed better vaccine information.

Finally, a little more than half (51 percent) of parents who said they do get vaccines on the standard schedule said that nothing could improve the vaccine schedule, and 22 percent said that they would like to get better information about vaccines.

Limitations

People who agreed to complete the survey may be more likely to feel a certain way about the standard vaccine schedule than those who did not respond. In addition, people may not actually do what they say they do when answering a survey. Parents may have felt pressure to answer survey questions the way they think they are supposed to rather than how they really feel.

Conclusions

Parents may have better experiences with children’s vaccinations if they get information earlier about vaccine side effects and safety. Parents may also have better experiences if they can work with doctors to set a vaccination schedule. Finally, doctors and others may work better with parents if they understand what parents want and find different ways to meet their needs.

Sharing the Results

The researchers published several journal articles about the project (see below).

More to Explore...

PCORI Stories

From Vaccine Tug-of-War to Parent-Pediatrician Dialogue
A narrative on how researchers are surveying parents to learn how to help them make decisions about vaccines more effectively. 

Videos

Involving Parents in the Research Process
Tracy Lieu says that what makes this project different from others is the level of involvement from parents in the research process.

Project Information

Tracy A. Lieu, MD, MPH
Kaiser Permanente Northern California^
$641,817
Incorporating Parent Preferences in Decision Making about Childhood Vaccines

Key Dates

June 2012
December 2014
2012
2014

Study Registration Information

^Tracy Lieu, MD, MPH was affiliated with Harvard Medical School when this project was funded.

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Last updated: March 4, 2022