Seasonal influenza imposes a significant clinical and economic burden. Despite the availability of an annual vaccine to prevent influenza infection and reduce disease severity, influenza vaccination rates remain suboptimal. Research suggests personal experience, perceived effectiveness, and concerns regarding vaccine safety and side effects are the most influential factors in predicting a parent's decision to vaccinate. However, current literature is primarily focused on the vaccine decision-making of healthcare workers and those at high risk for influenza complications.
To assess parental attitudes and beliefs regarding the influenza vaccine, a brief mixed-methods survey was developed and optimized for an electronic platform. The Health Belief Model informed survey design and data analysis. Questions were classified into five core concepts: knowledge, barriers, benefits, experience, and severity. Participants were solicited from a population of parents whose children had participated in a school-based influenza surveillance study (n = 244, 73% response rate). We tested associations between responses and children's influenza vaccination status the prior season. Categorical questions were tested using Pearson's chi-squared tests and numerical or ordered questions using Mann-Whitney tests. P-values were corrected using the Bonferroni method.
Doubting effectiveness, concerns about side effects, inconvenience, and believing the vaccine is unnecessary were barriers negatively associated with parents' decision to vaccinate their children during the 2017-18 flu season (p < 0.001). Knowledge that the vaccine is effective in lowering risk, duration, and severity of influenza; receiving the influenza vaccine as an adult; and recognizing the importance of vaccination to prevent influenza transmission in high-risk populations were positively associated with parents' decision to vaccinate (p < 0.001).
Understanding barriers and motivators behind parents' decision to vaccinate provides valuable insight that has the potential to shape vaccine messaging, recommendations, and policy. The motivation to vaccinate to prevent influenza transmission in high-risk populations is a novel finding that warrants further investigation.