Immunisation

Other information sources

It is absolutely right and normal that parents are concerned about the health of their children and it is important that parents seek reliable scientific evidence on which to base their decisions and there is now a mass of this information available.  

The overwhelming majority of parents believe in immunisation for their children. We have however included here the views of a few parents who do not believe immunisation is right for their own child based on their personal beliefs. Their views represent a small proportion of the population.

Every parent should have access to a trained health professional to chat about the risks of catching the diseases and about the benefits and potential risks of immunisation for their own child, and the population in general. Parents can talk to their GP, health visitor or practice nurse. There is also an immunisation advisor in each local health protection unit, whom parents can talk to about their child's immunisations. (See Public Health England's website for details about local contacts).  

Some parents felt the decisions around having their child immunised, especially the MMR immunisation was so important, that they believed the onus was on them to gather their own information to fully understand the potential dangers to their child. Generally these parents had decided that the information given by members of their general practice team might not be fully independent of pressures - financial, bureaucratic or practical. (See 'Information from health professionals'.)

Having said this, most admitted that the task they had set themselves was not an easy one.

The Internet
Some parents used the Internet to find information on immunisations, to help them make a decision, to research single vaccines or to get information to check that the reactions that their child had were normal. Discussions between parents on parenting web sites had been a useful source of information for some mothers. Others had used the Internet to access scientific papers on immunisation research.  

Using the Internet for information on MMR did have its problems however; it was easy to be overwhelmed with a considerable amount of information, which was often conflicting and controversial, and it was difficult to know which sources were reliable. One mother suggested that going to the sites on the Internet where there were stories of disasters attributed to immunisation was likely to frighten people without providing the appropriate information about the likelihood of such things occurring. 

Some parents said that the more time they had spent researching the subject, the easier it was to identify reliable sources. 

Research papers
A few parents who accepted that reports in newspapers were probably scare mongering and exaggerated, felt that the best way to get information was to look at the original research papers of the scientific studies. But as with other information sources, it was also important to look for any conflicts of interest, for example, papers published by researchers attached to the drug company, which produced a particular vaccine.

Some admitted that research papers were difficult to read. See 'Resources section - Medical Research on MMR, autism and bowel disease, and other safety issues' which gives a short summary of each of the research papers and the key findings. Not all parents felt they needed this amount of information and often talking to a trained health professional provided the reassurance parents needed to make a decision. (See 'Information from health professionals'.)

Government information
Some parents trusted the information given by the government about immunisations and believed that if MMR was dangerous they wouldn't allow it to be given to small children. Others said they didn't pay any attention to information provided by the government and didn't let it influence their decision either way.

However, several parents actually did not trust information coming from the government. They personally believed that government information on immunisations has an agenda like other information sources. Some said it was not reassuring because they personally believed it unlikely to be objective and in favour of immunisations. Some felt the information wasn't in as much depth as they needed.

Alternative practitioners
A few parents who were seeing an alternative practitioner, such as a homeopath, at the time they were making decisions talked to these professionals and got information leaflets about immunisations. Some of the big homeopathic pharmacies also have a range of books and information about immunisations.

Parent support groups
Some parents had found it useful to contact JABS (Justice for Vaccine Damaged Children) for information to help them make their decision or to get information about single vaccines.

Books
Numerous books have been written on MMR and immunisations in general. Some parents had found it helpful to read books or magazines that discussed alternative options available to parents, to give them a balanced overview of both pro and anti-immunisation arguments. A couple of mothers who had lived in other European countries talked about their experiences of anthroposophical medicine* and they had found it useful to read books written by anthroposophical doctors following the Steiner School of thought. 



*Anthroposophical medicine is a complementary medicine that combines elements of conventional medicine with homeopathy and naturopathy.

Last reviewed October 2015.
Last updated October 2015.

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