Childhood vaccination rates in Armenia are high. Yet, anecdotal evidence suggests that some health workers may advise against vaccination. The extent and reasons behind this are unknown. This study used the World Health Organization’s Tailoring Immunization Programmes approach to investigate medical specialists’ vaccination practices.
The study was conducted via face-to-face interviews with 30 medical specialists (paediatricians, immunologists, neonatologists, neurologists, gynaecologists). The interviews explored their vaccination practices (recommending/administering), knowledge, attitudes and confidence. Data were analysed using the Framework approach and COM (Capability, Opportunity, Motivation) factors.
The research demonstrated that multiple barriers and drivers to positive vaccination practices were evident, with differences between specialists administering/not administering vaccinations. Medical specialists were routinely consulted by parents about vaccination and engaged in conversations, even if they did not administer vaccinations and lacked expertise. Vaccination recommendation was “selective” and influenced by doctors’ own vaccine hesitancy. In fact, it was reported that doctors administering vaccination may have used false contraindications to postpone vaccination.
Drivers were knowledge of vaccination, vaccines, and vaccine-preventable diseases; with awareness and use of protocols for adverse events and contraindications (those with a vaccination role). Barriers were a lack of a detailed understanding of vaccination, vaccines, and vaccine-preventable diseases, especially amongst neonatologists and gynaecologists, and for HPV. Poor knowledge of adverse events and mixed knowledge of contraindications was evident, as was low confidence through conversations with parents declining vaccination.
Drivers were using “official" guidance, professional information and feeling protected by the Government of Armenia should an adverse event occur. Conversely, barriers were a reliance on media/social media without considering credibility, peers not recommending vaccination, increasing parent demands and not feeling protected by the Government.
Drivers were seeing vaccination as a responsibility (those who administer vaccinations); and generally supporting vaccination. Barriers were vaccine hesitancy, some anti-vaccination sentiments amongst neonatologists and gynaecologists and not seeing vaccination as their role (those who do not administer vaccinations).
Applying a theory-informed approach allowed us to identify critical issues and possible solutions. High vaccination coverage may disguise underlying issues, e.g., false contraindications. We addressed gaps in the literature, with our geographical focus and study of medical specialists advising parents on vaccination, a widely used practice in this sub-region.
Link to publication: https://bmcpediatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12887-022-03687-3
Article author: Heather Saul, WHO