Obtaining Required Childhood Vaccinations: The Latino Immigrant Experience

Monday, 28 July 2014: 7:00 AM

Barbara deRose, PhD, MSN, NP-C
School of Nursing, Indiana University, Indianapolis, IN

Vaccinations are an important step in preventing childhood illnesses and disease outbreaks in the community. Complete immunizations before school assure eligibility for enrollment and protect children against severe illness. The fact that foreign-born children of Latino immigrants face health disparities in receiving vaccinations is well documented. However, there is little information in the literature about the actual experience of immigrants facing the complexities of the health system, and through their eyes, which factors ultimately affect vaccination rates of immigrant Latino children.


The purpose of this study was to give voice to Latino immigrant families who recently immigrated to the United States, in terms of the issues they encountered when engaging the health care system for vaccinations.    


A convenience sample consisting of eleven Latino immigrant parents was obtained from information-rich participants of the immigrant Latino population, identified through clinics and churches. Each participant experienced seeking immunizations for their foreign born children during their first five years residing in the United States. Interpretative phenomenology guided the framing of the broad interview questions, probes, and data collection methods. Heideggerian hermeneutics guided the interpretation of the Latino parents’ world with regard to seeking immunizations for their children from the picture they provided. By sharing their experiences, the immigrant parents provided a glimpse of their world with regard to childhood immunizations and the effects of individual, community and policy factors.


The importance of trust in patient-provider relationships was the overarching finding of this study. Trust also emerged as a major factor in vaccinations practices i.e., causing revaccinations in situations where the medical provider mistrusted foreign documentation. Subthemes that emerged under the umbrella of trust were health literacy, health disparities, finding a medical home, and preserving the family unit. The subthemes provided a framework to examine the immigrant journey from arrival to the United States, settling into a community, and projection into the family’s future.


Implications for nursing practice stemming from these findings are the further exploration of vaccination practices, improvements in health provider cultural competency, and nursing advocacy in the arena of health policy. The broader goal of this study is to inform providers who review the study, and to improve outcomes for this vulnerable population.