Student: Matilda Hamilton
Supervisors: Dr Paul Corwin and Dr Suzanne Gower
Sponsor: Child Health Research Foundation
New Zealand has poor immunisation coverage levels. The main reason for this is parents and caregivers not accessing immunistion for their children due to various barriers including time restraints, cost of travel, and simply forgetting. Another smaller group of parents makes a conscious decision not to have their children immunised. No research has been done in New Zealand to identify why these parents make this decision and where they access information on immunisation. Similar research has been carried out in Britain. A 1995 study identified homeopathy and religion as the two main reasons and a second in 2001 identified parents' fear of the damage immunisation does to their children's immune system as the main reason. In this study, twenty-one parents whom had chosen not to have their children immunised were interviewed using a questionnaire. They were asked questions about demographic detail, their children's immunisation status, where they had obtained immunisation information and why they had made the decision not to immunise their children.
The participants were a highly educated group with six times the national average holding a Bachelor degree. All parents had carried out some of their own reading and research around the topic of immunisation and the greatest number of parents regarded this as the most influential information source when it came to making their decision. The majority of parents regarded their GP to be the health professional that provided the most information about immunisation. Along with this finding came a strong call for the information GPs provided to be more balanced. Parents usually stated a number of reasons for not immunising their children. When analysing parents' reasons, several themes emerged: concerns about the contents and effectiveness of vaccines, the natural development of their children's immune system, the risks of side effects and complications, the rarity and non-life-threatening nature of many of the diseases immunised against and having or knowing a vaccine-damaged child.
Other reasons mentioned included breast-feeding, not wanting to see their child in pain, too many vaccines delivered at once, Rudolf Steiner philosophy, child spending early months close to mother therefore lowering risk of contracting childhood diseases and the use of complementary medicine and healthy living to build up immunity.