Vaccine Hesitancy in Parents: Role of Social Networks, Social Media, and Parental Autonomy


  • Yuliya Shneyderman
  • Jody Vogelzang
  • Amar Kanekar



Vaccination, parents, trust, social networking, autonomy, health literacy


Introduction. Vaccine hesitancy in parents is a composite of multiple dimensions such as confidence, complacency, and convenience. A large proportion of parents can be deemed vaccine hesitant, meaning that their vaccine behaviors can range from delaying vaccines, skipping select vaccines, to refusal of all vaccinations. Furthermore, parental vaccine uptake rates and patterns can reflect their decisions based on the balance of parental autonomy versus protecting population health. The current manuscript uses Social Network Theory to explain some of the external influences on parental autonomy. Social networks, both private and public, play a role in vaccine decision making through providing information and support for parents in their choices. This influence, in turn, is mediated by parents’ health literacy and local vaccination policy. Discussion. Social media is an important type of public network that has an outsized influence on vaccine hesitancy. The rhetoric used on anti-vaccine websites often denigrates scientific evidence while at the same time endorsing poor-quality evidence that supports the anti-vaccine point of view. The websites continually propose new hypotheses of how vaccines can cause harm when studies refute their previous assertions, censor critics, and attack people with opposing viewpoints. The contentious nature of vaccine hesitancy based on beliefs, opinions, and attitudes needs a solution much deeper than simply providing factual knowledge or pointing people to reliable websites. Recommendations. Public health practitioners and researchers should try segmenting audiences, targeting private and public social networks, and then testing which persuasive strategies towards vaccinations appeal to different community groups.



How to Cite

Shneyderman, Y., Vogelzang, J., & Kanekar, A. (2021). Vaccine Hesitancy in Parents: Role of Social Networks, Social Media, and Parental Autonomy. American Journal of Health Studies, 36(2), 94–102.

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