Vaccination: What Do Consumers Want to Know?

Researchers from Australia set out to determine health consumers' information needs and concerns related to childhood vaccination.

Vaccination strategies rely on high immunization rates in the global population to achieve herd immunity. As immunization rates exceed 80%, the global burden of vaccine-preventable disease falls markedly. Parents are generally receptive to vaccination, and most young children are vaccinated on time and appropriately in industrialized nations. However, many parents have concerns and questions, and more than half of them seek additional information on the Internet.

Researchers from Australia set out to determine health consumers' information needs and concerns related to childhood vaccination. Their study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, indicates that most knowledge gaps relate to vaccine safety.

The research team monitored a pharmacist-operated Australian medicines call center (MCC) that received 1,342 calls about childhood vaccination over 8 years. In addition to analyzing the calls' subject, the researchers determined differences between high and low immunization coverage areas.

More than 60% of calls were safety inquiries, and almost one-third asked specifically about vaccine constituents, especially egg content. Callers from high immunization coverage areas (n=693) were most likely to ask about constituents. Callers who hailed from low immunization areas (n=607) were more likely to express concern about the vaccine preservatives mercury and thiomersal, even though these products were removed from Australian vaccines in 2000.

Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines were the most discussed immunizations.

More than half of callers indicated that they called because they had inadequate information. Other call motivators included: desire for a second opinion, desire to reconcile conflicting information, and concerns about a post-vaccination symptom.

The researchers noted that the number of calls was consistent over the years, and safety was a predominant concern. This information gap can add to vaccination hesitancy. The study researchers concluded that health professionals should be familiar with their local immunization rates and common patient concerns. Knowing this information can prepare providers to address barriers to vaccination quickly and efficiently.

Reference

Mus M, Kreijkamp-Kaspers S, McGuire T, Deckx L, van Driel M. What do health consumers want to know about childhood vaccination? An evaluation of data from an Australian medicines call centre. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2016;. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12607. [Epub ahead of print]