Objectives: The objective of this study was to survey and analyze vaccination beliefs and practices among families who have at least one child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Methods: Data on 2090 children with ASD and 1151 unaffected siblings provided by 1974 families was used to examine individual, family, and secular factors associated with vaccine-related beliefs about ASD and immunization practices among affected individuals and younger siblings, using ordinal and multinomial logistic regression.
Results: Roughly half of families believed that there “may be” (29.9%) or “definitely is” (15.3%) a link between a child’s ASD and immunizations. Odds of increasing belief were associated with increasing severity of a child’s skill loss (OR range, 2.2 - 4.9; p<.001) and lower maternal education status (graduate degree, OR .48, p<.05). Overall proportion of families omitting or delaying vaccination of initial childhood series was higher among siblings born after older siblings first showed developmental signs (24.5%), especially in the case of measles-mump-rubella vaccine (19.6%). Degree of belief, higher maternal education, and younger cohort were significantly correlated with delaying and/or omitting vaccines in younger siblings in the multinomial logistic regression model. Maternal education was also correlated with changing providers.
Conclusions: Belief in a vaccine-autism link and vaccination practices vary widely among families of children with ASD. Pediatricians should be prepared to explore vaccine-autism beliefs and provide in-depth guidance regarding vaccinations for such families; further research focusing on the experiences and concerns of these families is needed.