August 28, 2019
2 min read

40% of parents unlikely to use providers who allow vaccine refusal

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Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Sarah J. Clark

More than 40% of parents report that they would be somewhat or very likely to change their child’s health care provider if they knew the office treated families who refuse vaccination, according to findings from a nationally representative survey of more than 2,000 parents.

“Parents don’t necessarily know what’s possible or what’s practical, but the majority clearly want provider action to protect patients,” Sarah J. Clark, MPH, an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan’s Child Health Evaluation and Research Center and co-director of the poll, told Infectious Diseases in Children.

The poll was administered in February 2019 to parents of at least one child aged 0 to 18 years who lived in the home.

More than 40% of parents wanted to know whether their child’s primary care office cared for unvaccinated children, and 33% did not want to know. Nearly one-quarter were not sure if they wanted to know.

Approximately 40% of parents reported that they were either very likely (12%) or somewhat likely (29%) to change their child’s primary care provider if they accepted families who refused all vaccines.

Infographic from CS Mott Children's Hospital on parent responses to poll about pediatrician's office protections against vaccine-preventable diseaes 
Source: The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan

“Providers usually do their best to address any concerns parents may have related to hesitancy about vaccines,” Clark said. “In addition to explaining how vaccines protect the health of the child, providers also may share information about why an unvaccinated child exposes other children and patients to dangerous health risks, too.”

Most parents (70%) believed that offices should have policies in place to prevent completely unvaccinated children from infecting other patients. When families decide not to vaccinate, 28% of parents believed that the office should require parents to find another health care provider for their children. However, 17% said that unvaccinated children should be able to continue receiving care but should be banned from the waiting room, and 27%, said that these children should wear a mask in the waiting room. All other parents (28%) said that children should be able to use the office’s waiting room with no restrictions.

“Providers need to define their own views, and establish consensus in group practices, around vaccine refusal,” Clark said. “Then, they need to disseminate information about how providers and practices will interact with parents who refuse all vaccines. Additionally, if unvaccinated patients are allowed to remain in the practice, providers should define their approach to protecting vulnerable patients from transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases and then disseminate their expectations and policies.” – by Katherine Bortz


Clark SJ, et al. CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Child Health. 2019;34(5).

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.