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In Italy, infant vaccinations are mandatory for four infectious diseases: diphtheria, polio, tetanus and hepatitis B. In the past, there was widespread apprehension in Italy that doing away with obligatory vaccinations would reduce the coverage rate, but the possibility of making vaccinations optional has recently become more popular. The objectives of this study were to investigate parental willingness to vaccinate their children if those vaccinations were no longer mandatory and to evaluate the variables influencing this intention. We conducted face-to-face structured interviews with 1,039 parents at public health vaccination centres in four cities of the Campania region of southern Italy. Most respondents (91.9%) said that they would certainly (69.4%) or probably (22.5%) vaccinate their children if vaccinations were not mandatory. The belief that vaccinations are effective and safe was positively associated with willingness to vaccinate their children, whereas having heard that autism is a possible adverse reaction to vaccination was inversely associated with willingness to vaccinate. Nevertheless, in the context of the relatively low 2012* vaccination coverage rates in Campania (under the national standard of 95%), our results suggest that eliminating mandatory vaccinations is likely to lead to current coverage rates decreasing to unacceptably low levels, significantly below 90%.


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