Parents who believe vaccines really work are more likely than other parents to be willing to pay extra for comprehensive vaccine coverage.[@@]

Matthew Davis and Kathryn Fant, pediatrics researchers at the University of Michigan, have published data supporting that conclusion in a report on a survey of 496 U.S. households with children.

The report appears in the May-June issue of the journal Health Affairs, which includes a package of studies dealing with the U.S. and world immunization systems.

Members of the survey team offered parents a choice of 3 hypothetical health plans. The first, basic plan cost $179 per month and included only basic vaccine coverage for children. The second plan cost $182 per month and provided comprehensive coverage for extra, newly recommended vaccines for children as well as for the older, basic childhood vaccines. The richest plan cost $185 per month and provided coverage for adult vaccines along with comprehensive coverage for older and newer vaccines for children.

The survey team asked parents to choose between the 3 plans, then gave some parents a brief discussion about the personal health and economic benefits of vaccines. The team told other parents about what vaccines could do to improve the health of society as a whole.

Once members of the team delivered their presentations, they gave parents a second chance to choose a health plan.

The presentation on the public health benefits of vaccination programs had no noticeable effect on parent plan preferences, Davis and Fant write in their report.

The presentation on personal health and economic benefits had little effect on the parents who preferred the cheapest plan: slightly more than 20% of the parents who heard the discussion on personal benefits picked the cheapest plan both before and after hearing the discussion.

But Davis and Fant found that the percentage of parents who chose the most comprehensive plan increased to 63%, from 55%, after parents heard the discussion about the personal benefits of vaccines.

“Respondents who chose comprehensive rather than basic coverage were significantly more likely to strongly agree with statements that child vaccines are effective (49.3% versus 29.3%), that adult vaccines were effective (38% versus 18.7%) and that vaccines are generally safe (24.7% versus 6.2%),” Davis and Fant write.