Exploring parental hesitancy towards routine childhood vaccinations post-pandemic
: The role of personality and misinformation

  • Gabriella Annandale

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Official statistics and empirical data suggest routine childhood vaccinations are an effective preventative health measure. However, uptake of the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccination has been consistently below the World Health Organisation’s global target of 95%, increasing the risk of infections. MMR vaccination uptake further declined globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the extent to which the pandemic has influenced parental attitudes is underexplored. An opportunity sample of 208 UK parents completed a mixed-methods cross-sectional online survey which explored the influence of socio-demographic variables, HEXACO personality traits, cognitive biases and health literacy on parents’ perceived risk of MMR diseases and vaccination, what sources of vaccine information were deemed credible and trustworthy, and how the COVID-19 pandemic influenced vaccination attitudes. A logistic regression model indicated that omission bias, confirmation bias, openness to experience and agreeableness were significant correlates, explaining 47% of variance in perceived risk. Two repeated measures ANOVAs revealed public health messaging was perceived to be significantly more credible and trustworthy than all other sources, while advice from a health care professional was significantly more trustworthy, but not more credible, than anecdotes and social media posts containing vaccine-related information. Finally, a frequency analysis of qualitative responses suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic either resulted in no change in attitude, or a positive change, suggesting COVID-19 may have reinforced the necessity of routine childhood vaccinations, but attitudes toward a possible COVID-19 vaccination for under 5’s than routine vaccinations were more divisive. These findings indicate that parents in the sample proactively sought out information about MMR infections, recognised the risks associated with MMR infections and vaccination, and perceived information that aligned with their pre-existing (mostly positive) beliefs to be more credible, especially when from official sources. Future research should target recruitment of individuals who were more likely to perceive routine vaccinations to be riskier than infection to develop evidence-based interventions for increasing routine vaccination uptake, highlighting that vaccine preventable diseases like MMR are a credible health threat. The findings also indicate a need to repair the perceived credibility of healthcare professionals who provide disease and vaccine information, which may have faltered during the pandemic.
Date of Award14 Mar 2024
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSusanna Kola-Palmer (Main Supervisor)

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