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April 3, 2023

New Research Reveals Opportunities for Action Around Vaccine Delay

Findings from Healthier Generation identifies vaccine safety, efficacy, newness as focus areas

Alliance for a Healthier Generation (Healthier Generation), one of the nation’s preeminent children’s health organizations, today shared national market research on delays in recommended childhood vaccinations. The results point to opportunities for public health organizations and practitioners to promote on-time childhood vaccination, critical to preventing the spread of serious diseases like measles and polio. 

In summer 2022, Healthier Generation partnered with FHI 360 to conduct an online survey of parents of children under 18, as well as interviews with mothers who had delayed at least one vaccination for their child. The research explored parent attitudes, beliefs, and intentions around vaccines, reasons for delay, and trusted sources of information.  

Similar to recent national polling data, the survey found that 92% of parents had their child receive all vaccinations on the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excluding flu and COVID-19, which the survey did not ask about. About 8% of parents had delayed or refused at least one vaccine for their child, while less than 1% had refused all vaccines. 

Among the 8% of parents who had delayed or refused at least one vaccine: 

  • 31% were concerned about vaccine ingredients 

  • 29% did not want their child getting too many vaccines at once 

  • 27% wanted to delay until their child was older 

  • 26% were wary of rare serious reactions 

In interviews, mothers also expressed concerns about the safety and necessity of what they referred to as “new” vaccines—that is, vaccines that had been introduced since their own childhood. 

When asked about future plans, 85% of parents intended to have their child receive all recommended vaccines on time. Just 1% planned to refuse all vaccines. The remaining 14% planned to delay some or all, refuse some, or were not sure of their plans. Parents in this latter (14%) group viewed vaccine-preventable illnesses as being less serious, compared to parents planning on-time vaccination. They were also less confident that the vaccines would prevent disease or be safe for their child.   

Parents consistently identified their child’s doctor as among their most trusted sources of information about childhood vaccines. This finding was true for all demographic groups. In interviews, however, many mothers who had delayed said they felt there was not enough time during appointments to discuss vaccines, and they wanted to review historic outcome data. 

Insights from this research point to opportunities for augmenting a physician-centered approach to vaccine education to reach parents who are considering delaying.  

“The research supports what we see in our daily work across the country – parents and caregivers are working hard to do what is best for their children and seek support in doing so,” said Kathy Higgins, chief executive officer of Healthier Generation. “It is also clear that the need for equity-focused, community-based programs that meet parents and caregivers where they are is crucial to build trust and to help them make informed decisions about critical health care.”   

“While it’s gratifying to see that a large majority of parents plan to continue getting their children vaccinated on time, we urgently need to address the concerns of those who are planning to delay or refuse their children’s vaccinations,” said Howell Wechsler, director of U.S. programs at FHI 360. 

To access no-cost resources that promote routine and recommended childhood vaccines, visit HealthierGeneration.org/vaccines


About Alliance for a Healthier Generation  

Alliance for a Healthier Generation is a leading children's health organization that advances equitable whole child health. Driven by our passion to ensure that every mind, every body, and every young person is healthy and ready to succeed, our work has reached over 31 million young people across the country. To learn more and help make a difference, visit HealthierGeneration.org and join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.