A decline in routine vaccination was reported by some countries early in the COVID-19 pandemic. In the context of the pandemic, determinants of routine childhood vaccination may have changed. Changes over time in parents’ perceptions of routine vaccines and intentions for their children during the pandemic have not been fully explored. Understanding changes provides opportunities to promote routine childhood vaccines and address factors that may compromise parents’ acceptance.
We conducted longitudinal analysis of two sequential national surveys during the pandemic (Dec 2020 and Oct/Nov 2021) to assess changes over time in Canadian parents’ perceptions of routine childhood vaccines, intentions to vaccinate, access for their children ≤ 17 years, and differences among sociodemographic characteristics. McNemar-Bowker tests were used to determine changes in parents’ responses collected at two time points.
Of the 650 parents in the sample, 25.1% with a child ≤ 6 years and 20.5% with a child 7–17 years perceived that routine childhood vaccines were more important because of the pandemic. Between the two time points, parents’ confidence in the safety (72.8% to 80.2%, p <.001) and effectiveness (81.7% to 85.2%, p =.007) of routine vaccines increased, parents were more engaged in vaccine decision-making (73.4% to 79.8%, p =.006), and everyday stress preventing vaccination decreased (78.8% to 68.5%, p <.001). Acceptance of routine vaccines increased (82.9% to 86.5%, p =.021), but more parents were undecided about influenza vaccination (12.6% to 20.3%, p =.002). Compared to parents with 1 child, those with 2 children reported increased vaccination acceptance (82.6% to 87.4%, p =.024).
Under the spotlight of COVID-19, parents’ confidence in routine vaccines, engagement in decision-making, and vaccination acceptance increased. Vaccination providers should support parents’ decision-making as they navigate routine childhood vaccine uncertainties. Differences in parents’ acceptance of routine and influenza vaccines for their children highlight the need for targeted communication strategies for specific vaccines.