Parental perspectives of vaccine safety and experience of adverse events following immunisation



Publication Details

Parrella, A., MS Gold, M. S., Marshall, H. S., Braunack-Mayer, A. J. & Baghurst, P. (2013). Parental perspectives of vaccine safety and experience of adverse events following immunisation. Vaccine, 31 2067-2074.



We aimed to determine demographic predictors of parental vaccine safety and risk perceptions, and assess the relationship between the occurrence of children's perceived adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) on parents’ opinions.


Computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) were conducted in 2011 with a cross-sectional, random general population sample of rural and metropolitan residents in South Australia. Multivariate ordinal logistic regression analyses examined associations between parental vaccine safety attitudes and socio-demographic factors, adjusting for whether children had ever experienced a previous suspected AEFI.


Of 469 parents interviewed, 95% were confident in vaccine safety in general, but almost half expressed concern for pre-licensure testing of vaccines. Of all parents, 41% responded that at least one of their children had experienced an AEFI. Almost one third of the AEFI parent group indicated they reported their children's symptoms to either a healthcare professional or the Department of Health. Parental acceptability of the risks of febrile convulsion and anaphylaxis were 73% and 76% respectively. Ordinal logistic regression analyses showed parents of children who had experienced a suspected AEFI were associated with greater concern for vaccine safety (OR:0.53, p ≤ 0.01) and more were likely to expect either a mild or a serious AEFI. After adjusting for demographics, parental confidence in vaccine safety was significantly associated with higher levels of education (OR:2.58, p = 0.01) and being born in Australia OR:2.30, p = 0.004. Mothers, when compared with fathers, were less accepting of the two vaccine risks presented: febrile convulsion (OR:0.57, p = 0.04) and anaphylaxis, (OR:0.55, p = 0.04).


Parents commonly perceive and report that their child has experienced an AEFI. In this group of parents the subsequent expectation of an AEFI and vaccine safety concerns may be heightened. Further research should investigate parental understandings of differentiating an expected event from an adverse event as this could inform immunization risk communication and consumer AEFI reporting strategies.

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