Increasing numbers of parents use alternative vaccination schedules that differ from the recommended childhood vaccination schedule for their children. We sought to describe national patterns of alternative vaccination schedule use and the potential “malleability” of parents' current vaccination schedule choices.
We performed a cross-sectional, Internet-based survey of a nationally representative sample of parents of children 6 months to 6 years of age. Bivariate and multivariate analyses determined associations between demographic and attitudinal factors and alternative vaccination schedule use.
The response rate was 61% (N = 748). Of the 13% of parents who reported following an alternative vaccination schedule, most refused only certain vaccines (53%) and/or delayed some vaccines until the child was older (55%). Only 17% reported refusing all vaccines. In multivariate models, nonblack race and not having a regular health care provider for the child were the only factors significantly associated with higher odds of using an alternative schedule. A large proportion of alternative vaccinators (30%) reported having initially followed the recommended vaccination schedule. Among parents following the recommended vaccination schedule, 28% thought that delaying vaccine doses was safer than the schedule they used, and 22% disagreed that the best vaccination schedule to follow was the one recommended by vaccination experts.
More than 1 of 10 parents of young children currently use an alternative vaccination schedule. In addition, a large proportion of parents currently following the recommended schedule seem to be “at risk” for switching to an alternative schedule.