College of Health and Human Services
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Respect for Parental Rights Is Important with Vaccine-Hesitant Parents, New Study Finds

September 18, 2019

More measles cases have occurred in the United States in 2019 than in any year in a generation, and the outbreaks are ongoing, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vast majority of children in the U.S. receive all of the recommended childhood vaccines, but homeschooled children in some communities have lower vaccination rates. New research led by George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services found that vaccine-hesitant parents may place a higher than typical value on parental authority.

Professor Dr. Kathryn H. Jacobsen and colleagues conducted focus groups with Christian parents in Pennsylvania who are homeschooling their children. They found that vaccine-hesitant parents have strong beliefs about parental autonomy. Participating parents expressed a desire for their children’s pediatricians and other health professionals to provide them with the scientific evidence about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases that will allow them to make informed decisions for their families. 

“Now that measles outbreaks are occurring in several states, parents who previously chose not to vaccinate their children may be reevaluating their perceptions of the benefits of vaccination and the risks from vaccine-preventable diseases,” Jacobsen pointed out. “Based on our research, respectful conversations with pediatricians and other health professionals can be an important part of that decision-making process.”

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