How maternal mental health can affect a child’s vaccination record


New research shows that a mother’s mental illness can impact their child’s completion of recommended vaccinations.

The number of children who don’t get necessary vaccinations has continued to grow over the past few years and the reasons for the decrease are myriad. A new study in the European Journal of Epidemiology looks at the impact of maternal mental health on vaccination rates for offspring.1

Investigators used the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, a British primary health care database, to find 479,949 mother-child pairs. The vaccinations included were the 5-in-1 (diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis, inactivated poliovirus vaccine, and Haemophilus influenzae [DTaP/IPV/Hib]) and the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine. The schedule was DTaP/IPV/Hib and the first dose of MMR by age 2 years and all 3 doses of DTaP/IPV/Hib and first and second doses of MMR by age 5 years. Clinical events of depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorder, personality disorder, and alcohol and substance misuse disorder were used to show exposure to maternal mental illness (MMI)

The researchers found that the likelihood of completing the recommended vaccinations by ages 2 and 5 years was lower in children with mothers who had a mental illness when compared with children whose mothers did not have mental illness. The link was strongest in children exposed to mothers who engaged in alcohol or substance misuse. They estimate that 5000 more children per year would be vaccinated in the United Kingdom if mothers with mental illness vaccinated their children at the same rate as mothers who did not suffer from mental illness. Clinicians who are aware of mental illness in the mothers of patients should keep the illness in mind when trying to ensure children are vaccinated according to the recommended schedule.


1.    Osam CS, Pierce M, Hope H, Ashcroft DM, Abel KM. The influence of maternal mental illness on vaccination uptake in children: a UK population-based cohort study. Eur J Epidemiol. April 24, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1007/s10654-020-00632-5

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