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Social Networks Affect Parents' Vaccination Decision-Making

Percentage of parents' people network backing nonconformity is the most important predictor

MONDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Social networks play a role in parents' vaccination decision-making, according to a study published online April 15 in Pediatrics.

Emily K. Brunson, M.P.H., Ph.D., from Texas State University in San Marcos used social network analysis to examine parents' social networks (people networks and source networks) in relation to their vaccination decision-making. Participants included first-time parents with children aged 18 months or younger, of which 126 parents conformed to the recommended vaccination schedule, and 70 did not.

The author found that 95 percent of participants in each group reported people networks, and non-conformers were significantly more likely to report source networks (100 versus 80 percent). People network variables better predicted parents' vaccination choices compared with parents' own characteristics or their source network characteristics. The percent of parents' people networks recommending nonconformity was the most predictive variable of parents' vaccination decisions.

"This study has shown that social networks, and particularly parents' people networks, play a key role in parents' vaccination decision-making," Brunson writes. "It is also essential that interventions aimed at increasing vaccine acceptance not focus exclusively on parents, or parents and their children's health care providers, but rather focus on communities more broadly so that the other people parents are likely to consult, such as their spouses/partners, family members, and friends, are also included."

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