Childhood Vaccination Practices and Parental Hesitancy Barriers in Rural and Urban Primary Care Settings

Alexandria N. Albers, Emma Wright, Juthika Thaker, Kathrene Conway, Matthew F. Daley, Sophia R. Newcomer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The purpose of our study was to identify primary care providers’ (PCPs’) practices in promoting childhood vaccination and their perceptions regarding barriers to vaccination in a primarily rural state. In January-May 2022, we conducted a mail and online survey of PCPs across Montana (n = 829). The survey included modules on routine immunizations in children 0–2 years old and COVID-19 vaccination in children 5–17 years old. The survey response rate was 36% (298/829). We categorized PCPs as working in rural (n = 218) or urban areas (n = 80), based on Rural-Urban Commuting Area codes. We then compared responses between rural and urban PCPs using chi-square tests. Urban PCPs (90–94%, depending on vaccine) stocked routinely recommended vaccines more frequently than rural PCPs (71–84%), but stocked the COVID-19 vaccine less often than rural PCPs (44% vs. 71%, respectively, p < 0.001). A higher percentage of rural providers reported parental beliefs that vaccine-preventable diseases are not severe enough to warrant vaccination (48% vs. 31%, p = 0.01) and concerns that vaccination will weaken their child’s immune system (29% vs. 6%, p < 0.001). More rural (74%) compared to urban (59%) PCPs identified a social media campaign from local health departments promoting early childhood vaccinations as an effective strategy to increase childhood vaccination rates (p = 0.01). We identified key differences in some childhood vaccination practices and barriers between rural and urban PCPs. Interventions to increase rural vaccination rates could include increasing the number of providers stocking all recommended vaccines, identifying strategies to address parents’ concerns regarding vaccine necessity, and collaborations with public health departments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)798-809
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number5
Early online dateApr 29 2023
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • COVID-19 vaccination
  • Childhood vaccination
  • Rural
  • Structural barriers
  • Vaccine confidence
  • Humans
  • Vaccination
  • Parents
  • Child, Preschool
  • Infant
  • Vaccines
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19/prevention & control
  • Primary Health Care
  • Child
  • Infant, Newborn


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