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People Choose to Vaccinate Children Based on their Social Connections

Update Date: Apr 15, 2013 01:15 PM EDT

Vaccinations for young children act as preventable measures, which protect the child's immune system from deadly infections. Doctors have often stated that vaccinations benefit children, and even encouraged infants to get multiple vaccinations within one siting. Despite this fact and constant reassurance from the medical field, the subject of vaccinations and whether or not they can be harmful to the child or to younger children who interact with vaccinated children seems to always be debated. The controversy behind vaccinations continues to thrive, and according to a new report, it might have a lot to do with listening to one's social connections, which include family and friends instead of listening to medical professionals.

The survey was administered to 196 parents, who had children under the age of 18 months within King County, WA. This region has been known to have a low vaccination rate in comparison to the national average and has experienced a pertussis epidemic, which is a contagious respiratory disease that involves uncontrollable and violent coughing. The survey revealed that 126 of the parents chose to follow the vaccination regulations set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 70 of the parents within the sample group chose to create their own vaccination plans. 28 parents delayed vaccines while 37 parents decided to selectively vaccinate their children and five did not vaccinate at all.

The survey also found that 95 percent of the parents reported to have consulted someone from their social network, which include family and friends who might not be in the medical field. Parents stated that they listened to their spouses the most when deciding the right vaccination approach for their children. The second group of people that parents asked for advice was friends and relatives. The researchers noted that surprisingly 10 percent of parents that followed CDC guidelines and 12 percent of parents that did not follow these regulations did not list doctors as one of their top five people to go to for advice.

The fact that parents turn to friends and family before a medical professional is quite alarming. The survey found that 72 percent of parents that did not follow CDC regulations were advised not to by friends and family, where as the percentage dropped to 13 for parents who chose to follow CDC regulations. This study revealed the importance of educating everyone about the safety and necessity behind vaccinations. Since parents tend to listen to the advice of family and friends over doctors, it might be important to spread the knowledge of vaccinations to the general public and dispel the rumors surrounding the possible dangers of vaccines.

"If we want to improve vaccination rates, communication needs to be directed to the public at large," says the study leader, Emily Brunson. The study found that people were 1,500 times less likely to follow CDC's vaccination regulations when they were recommended against the agency's guidelines by friends and family. "Parents' people networks matter a ton. Having those conversations with your sister, with our parent, with your friends matter a lot more than we thought."

This study was published in Pediatrics

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