Most Parents Form Vaccination Preferences Before Becoming Pregnant

Efforts to educate parents about the importance of vaccinations for their children might be more effective if they begin prior to pregnancy, according to findings of a new study to be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, D.C.

Researchers at the North Carolina Children's Hospital surveyed 170 mothers and fathers in the postpartum ward who had given birth between February and April 2015. A significant majority (72 percent) reported starting to develop vaccine preferences for their newborn before conception.

Perhaps not surprisingly, 77 percent of parents of previous children had already thought about vaccines for their new baby before pregnancy, said lead investigator James N. Yarnall, MPH, a fourth-year medical student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But even among first-time parents, 66 percent of respondents said they were already focused on vaccines before becoming pregnant.

Parents who had previously talked with their partner about vaccines for their child and parents who were more highly educated were more likely to begin deciding on vaccines before pregnancy. The most common influences for vaccine decision-making were the advice of family and friends, medical staff, and organizations such as the AAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Currently the vast majority of vaccine information and education is given after the birth of the child, usually during the clinic visits when the vaccination shots are given. However, we may be giving this information too late, long after most parents start thinking about vaccines for their child," Yarnall says.

The research group at UNC is planning a multi-site study to determine if these findings translate to a national level. This new study will be conducted in cooperation with the Better Outcomes through Research for Newborns (BORN) Network.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics