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Why do parents who usually vaccinate their children hesitate or refuse?

תמונה תומכת תוכןThe issue of vaccination hesitancy and refusal often makes headlines in the media and worries health authorities. However, a new study by Dr. Anat Gesser-Edelsburg, Dr. Yaffa Shir-Raz and Prof. Manfred  S. Green  from University of Haifa, School  of Public Health,  published in the Journal of Risk Research suggests that even parents  who are not "vaccine refusers" and who usually  comply  with the routine  vaccination programs may hesitate  or refuse  to vaccinate their children  based  on poor communication from the relevant  healthcare provider, as well as concerns about the safety of the vaccine.


The study examines parents’ refusal or hesitancy to vaccinate their children following the 2013 polio outbreak in Israel. While no clinical  cases of paralytic polio were recorded during  the outbreak, the Israeli Health  Ministry  launched a campaign to immunize children  under  the age of 10, who were already  protected with the standard inactivated polio vaccine  (IPV), with a bivalent  oral polio vaccine  (OPV)  designed to protect others who were not already  vaccinated against  the disease.
The study draws on results from a questionnaire survey, and content analysis of parents’ discussions in blogs, Internet sites, and Facebook. Although the rate of children vaccinated during the campaign was high, the study's findings indicate that for the first time, parents who are not "Vaccine refusers" and who usually comply with the routine vaccination programs hesitated or even refused to vaccinate their children. One Third of parents surveyed, who refused or were hesitant to vaccinate their children, reported that the safety of the vaccine was a concern, and that they were not convinced by the information communicated by the Health Ministry, or the explanation of why this vaccine was necessary.
Over a third of all respondents strongly  disagreed that the Health  Ministry  had provided comprehensive and clear information about the reasons  for giving children  the vaccine,  and almost  28% of parents  who vaccinated their children  indicated that they did not actually understand that the purpose  of the vaccine  was not to protect  their own child.
The researchers went on to suggest that, in the long term, the perceived ambiguity in communications could create mistrust in the health care system.  The theme of distrus in the medical establishment recurred in the analysis of 35 respondents who had refused or were hesitant about vaccinating their child.
This case emphasizes the importance of transparency and credibility in health communication. For example, The Health Ministry claimed that the OPV vaccine had ‘zero side effects’.  Findings indicated that claiming there is no risk whatsoever was interpreted as neither respecting the public or credible. The researchers recommend that in future instances the risk-communicating organizations should expose the dilemmas, communicate facts, and ‘talk science’ even to laypeople, especially in conditions of uncertainty: the communicators must educate the public and include it, and not speak in all-or-nothing slogans’.

The full article is avaliable at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13669877.2014.983947#tabModule