A community-based intervention using parent advocacy was successful in promoting vaccine-positive attitudes over the course of 3 years in Washington state childcare centers, preschools and schools.
“Strong negative rhetoric about vaccines can circulate widely on social media. Some parents feel hesitant about early childhood vaccines and may delay or refuse some or all vaccines, which may put others in their community at risk,” Clarissa Hsu, PhD, principal investigator of the study from Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, said in a press release. “This project was designed to counterbalance prevalent anti-vaccine messages that do not reflect the fact that most — at least four in five — people vaccinate their kids and are supportive of vaccines.”
With a primary focus on vaccine hesitancy within Washington state, the researchers implemented a public–private partnership called the “Immunity Community,” which was composed of health organizations. Local vaccine-positive parents were mobilized to promote constructive discourse concerning immunization within their community by using various outlets (social media, conversations, meetings, etc.).
To evaluate beliefs about vaccination, as well as perception of the program, parental knowledge and attitudes, facilitators and barriers to success and outcomes, researchers facilitated focus groups, interviews, and online parental surveys before and after intervention.
Statistically significant improvements were seen in various areas, including the percentage of parents concerned about other parents not vaccinating their children (81.2% to 88.6%) and the number of parents who considered themselves “vaccine hesitant” (226.6% to 14.0%). Although a decrease was observed in the number of parents who reported signing or intending to sign vaccine exemption forms (9.7% to 7.0%), no statistically significant changes were demonstrated in behaviors.
“A key question that needs to be addressed is whether the program can be implemented and sustained with fewer resources,” Hsu and colleagues wrote. “The [current model] included a program staff member working at 80% of a full-time position for a 16-month program cycle. This person was the primary staff member responsible for recruiting, training and providing technical assistance, as well as leading … materials development and updates.”
The researchers also are uncertain about the efficacy of the program in different locales, mainly due to differing vaccination norms and values, different resources available to support vaccination and varying policies and procedures. — by Katherine Bortz
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.