Midwifery care of non-vaccinating families — Insights from the Byron Shire

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Women and Birth


Problem: Midwives may feel ill-equipped to manage clinical encounters with non-vaccinating parents. Background: Pregnancy is a peak time in the formation of parents’ vaccination views and intention. Midwives are central to maternity care in Australia. While most midwives will have infrequent contact with families who intend not to vaccinate, when they do, they must feel equipped to communicate with them in a manner which fulfils their professional responsibilities, acknowledges parental autonomy and facilitates continued engagement. Aim: To understand how midwives can most effectively communicate with non-vaccinating parents. Methods: We conducted in-depth interviews with 32 non-vaccinating parents and six key informant health professionals, and a focus group of six midwives. Data collection occurred in the Byron Shire of New South Wales, where childhood vaccination rates are persistently lower than national averages. Findings: This study explores four central codes. The first, ‘hold on…I'm not sure about this’ providing insights into moments of doubt preceding parents’ decisions not to vaccinate. The second ‘Pregnancy: a decision-making focal point’ reinforces the importance of effective vaccination recommendations in the antenatal period. ‘Manipulation and ambivalence’ examines why overzealous or unclear recommendations about vaccination are unhelpful, and the fourth central code ‘engage, inform and encourage’ summarise recommendations from health professionals who are experienced in communicating, apparently effectively, with non-vaccinating families. Discussion: Insights from this study are used to recommend practical strategies which may be employed by midwives and maternity units to successfully and professionally manage clinical encounters with non-vaccinating parents. Conclusion: Midwives are well positioned to provide clear recommendations to parents regarding childhood vaccination whilst maintaining engagement and meeting the goals of woman-centred care.

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