Vaccine background

The purpose of this module is to support and advise you in having a positive discussion with your patients on the influenza vaccine through brief intervention/motivational interviewing techniques that can be of a benefit to you in increasing the influenza vaccine uptake at opportunistic moments with your patients. 

The purpose is to be able to have a discussion/s that provides effective and engaging outcomes in an open-ended, non-judgmental, listening and communicative format.

When it comes to the influenza vaccine, there is often difficulty in having a significant impact in increasing the uptake. In certain groups, such as older adults & individuals with chronic diseases/conditions and even though there are policies in place, and safe and effective vaccines available, almost every country struggles with vaccine hesitancy, that is, a delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination. 

Vaccine refusal can result from complacency, a lack of confidence or a rational calculation of the pros and cons. We should make every effort to concentrate on motivating the complacent, removing the barriers for those who see the vaccine as an inconvenience. These barriers can be seen as ‘gate keepers’ and although most people agree that vaccinations are important, other personal issues become more important and making a vaccination appointment becomes subordinated under other obligations. Most individual’s attitudes are not strongly against or in favour of the vaccination in this case, which means the vaccination is not deemed important enough to actively overcome their barriers. Consequently, when decision makers face barriers such as lack of access, cost or travel, they decline vaccination to avoid such challenges.

Here is where making the most of opportunistic moments during your appointment with your patients becomes a priority. The choice of language should be careful as overly emphasising risk can backfire. The way choices and options are presented to individuals affect the way they make decisions. It is not only important which information is given, but also how the information is provided. Practitioners need to explain the benefits and gains in attempting to change patients’ behaviours and contrast it with the losses, so that these can be tangibly assessed.

For many health behaviours, framing information in terms of gains versus losses has different effects on behaviours. Individuals with a high risk of influenza, a gain-framed message (influenza vaccine is effective in 80% of cases) was more effective than a loss-framed message (influenza vaccine is ineffective in 20% of cases 

Although it is important that public health agencies explain the risks that are related to vaccine-preventable diseases, creating fear for persuasive reasons is not advisable. The idea is that individuals take up protective behaviours when they feel threatened or at risk, that is, if they perceive high levels of risk of disease, they will be more likely to be vaccinated; if they perceive they are protected by high levels of vaccination around them, they may not get vaccinated. 

Vaccination has greatly reduced the burden of infectious diseases. Only clean water, also considered to be a basic human right, performs better. The WHO states that vaccinations save an estimated number of 2 to 3 million lives per year. 

Individuals with lack of confidence in being vaccinated usually possess a considerable amount of incorrect knowledge that distorts risk perceptions and undermines the general trust in vaccination. 

It is key that interventions aim at providing correct information from trustworthy sources. Doctors, are therefore essential.


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