Low immunisation uptake: is the process the problem?
Mothers may be deterred from bringing their infants to be vaccinated if they feel that health professionals are unsympathetic to them and the pain inflicted on their children, suggests research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh, conducted in-depth interviews of 23 mothers whose children were between the ages of 12 and 24 months in two areas of Dublin, Ireland.
The mothers said that they preferred to have their children vaccinated at their family practice rather than in an immunisation clinic. Their preference was based on the feeling that vaccinations carried out in clinics can be "unacceptably rough and inhuman," with little empathy shown for the severe emotional distress mothers said they felt at the prospect of inflicting pain on their babies. They described their experiences in clinics in terms of being "on a conveyor belt" or "just a number." They valued most those health professionals who acknowledged their distress, recognised the potential trauma of vaccination, and who made attempts to engage with the babies. Mothers who had bad experiences put off following through vaccinations or defaulted altogether, the research showed.
The authors conclude that perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on accessibility and the practical aspects of immunisation rather than the emotional qualities of the process itself. A more humane response might encourage more mothers to have their children vaccinated, they suggest.
Dr Peter Harrington, The Palms Practice, Gorey, County Wexford, Ireland. email@example.com
Dr Cate Woodman, Department of Management and Social Sciences, Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh.