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July 2020

Coronavirus deters parents from immunising children

A GSK survey of parental attitudes towards childhood vaccinations suggests the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted vaccine confidence.

But fear of contracting the virus has caused a massive drop in the number of parents happy to take their children to the GP’s for routine immunisations, although many questioned said if alternative locations were available, they’d take their child there.

Forty-five percent of parents of young children believes vaccinations are now more essential to protect against infectious diseases than they were before the COVID-19 outbreak, polling carried out by GSK suggests.1

The majority (73%) of parents were happy for their children to receive vaccinations during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, just 27% of parents are now comfortable taking their child to a medical centre for vaccinations – down from 91% pre-pandemic.  

Dr George Kassianos, National Immunisation Lead, Royal College of General Practitioners and President British Global & Travel Health Association said: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has been a very difficult time for the NHS, healthcare professionals, emergency services and social care, but also for parents and patients. General practitioners and practice nurses have now ensured their premises are safe for children and adults to receive routine vaccinations. I would urge all parents of young children with outstanding immunisations, as well as adults, to contact their GP practice to arrange vaccinations.’

The survey found that 93% of parents were happy for their children to be vaccinated generally and 29% more likely now than before the pandemic to take up vaccinations for their children or themselves. But despite this, of the 22% of respondents whose child had a vaccination appointment scheduled during lockdown, 22% said their appointment had been postponed and 23% had chosen not to go because of the pandemic.

Of the 73% of parents who said they would be happy for their child to be vaccinated during lockdown, many were open to taking their children to untraditional locations for vaccinations, if they were available. The most popular alternatives were a nurse home visit (55%), a drive-through facility (50%), their local pharmacy (44%) or a mobile medical centre (46%)1.

Dr Philip Cruz, UK Vaccines Medical Director, GSK, said: ‘Parents are confident about the value of vaccines but there’s anxiety about attending medical facilities during the pandemic. As the NHS continues to deal with coronavirus, it’s important that parents feel confident in the safety measures put in place by medical centres, in line with Public Health and infection control guidelines. It could also be interesting to continue to explore innovative and untraditional locations for vaccine-delivery. Now is not the time for children to miss scheduled immunisations.’

Parents who were not happy for their children to be vaccinated during the outbreak said they were most concerned about exposing their family (67%) or themselves (42%) to COVID-19.

The survey also found that 81% of the respondents trusted the NHS as a source of information about vaccines either completely or to a great extent. Health professionals were the second most trusted source of vaccine information at 78%. Celebrities were the least trusted sources of information with only 3% of respondents saying they trusted them completely or to a great extent.

1. GSK Vaccine Survey, May 2020

Practice Nurse 2020;50(6): online only