Public health practitioner perspectives on dealing with measles outbreaks if high anti-vaccination sentiment is present
BMC Public Health
Background: Communities with low vaccination rates are at greater risk during outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases. Most Australian parents support vaccines, but some refuse and are often judged harshly by their community, especially during an outbreak. We sought the perspectives of Australian public health experts on the key issues faced when managing a measles outbreak in an area with high anti-vaccination sentiment. Methods: A measles outbreak scenario formed the basis of a 3-round modified Delphi process to identify key practitioner concerns in relation to parents/carers who don’t follow the recommended vaccination schedule. We surveyed a range of professionals in the field: policymakers, infectious disease experts, immunisation program staff, and others involved in delivering childhood vaccinations, to identify key priorities when responding to an outbreak in a community with low vaccination coverage. Results: Findings indicate that responses to measles outbreaks in communities with high anti-vaccination sentiment are motivated by concerns about the potential for a much larger outbreak event. The highest operational priority is to isolate infected children. The two most highly ranked practical issues are mistrust from non-vaccinating members of the local region and combatting misinformation about vaccines. Trying to change minds of such individuals is not a priority during an outbreak, nor is vaccinating their children. Using media and social media to provide information about the outbreak and measures the public can take to limit the spread of the disease was a focus. Conclusions: Our findings provide a deeper understanding of the challenges faced during an outbreak and priorities for communicating with communities where there is a high level of anti-vaccination sentiment. In the context of a global pandemic, the results of this study also have implications for managing public health responses to community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, as COVID-19 vaccines becomes widely available.
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