Objectives: To explain vaccination refusal in a sample of Australian parents.
Design: Qualitative design, purposive sampling in a defined population.
Setting: A geographically bounded community of approximately 30 000 people in regional Australia with high prevalence of vaccination refusal.
Participants: Semi structured interviews with 32 non-vaccinating parents: 9 fathers, 22 mothers and 1 pregnant woman. Purposive sampling of parents who had decided to discontinue or decline all vaccinations for their children.
Recruitment: via local advertising then snowballing.
Results: Thematic analysis focused on explaining decision-making pathways of parents who refuse vaccination. Common patterns in parents' accounts included: perceived deterioration in health in Western societies; a personal experience introducing doubt about vaccine safety; concerns regarding consent; varied encounters with health professionals (dismissive, hindering and helpful); a quest for the real truth'; reactance to system inflexibilities and ongoing risk assessment.
Conclusions: We suggest responses tailored to the perspectives of non-vaccinating parents to assist professionals in understanding and maintaining empathic clinical relationships with this important patient group.