Giving parents access to a dedicated website on the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the most cost-effective way to increase uptake, say experts.
The study published in the British Journal of General Practice, recommends that a dedicated website be developed as part of guidelines on the MMR vaccine.
Led by Dr Swati Shourie from Monash University and Dr Sandy Tubeuf from the University of Leeds in the UK, the research is the first to look at the economics of providing information about the MMR vaccine. As well as reducing parents' concern about immunising their child, a website is shown to be more cost-effective than a leaflet or a face-to-face visit with a GP.
Dr Shourie said MMR vaccination uptake in Australia is good but a dedicated website could sustain these rates and could help improve parents' confidence in the vaccine, especially in rural areas where it can be difficult for families to access information.
"A website is a simple solution but one that could make a real difference to vaccination uptake. This is a much more convenient way for parents to get information they need about the safety of the MMR vaccine for their children," she said.
"Many countries, including Australia, are moving towards making medical information and records available online. We believe a dedicated website would complement eHealth, and help parents to make an informed decision."
In Australia the measles, mumps and rubella measles are all serious viral diseases, which still occur. Current guidelines recommend that children should be immunised with the MMR vaccine at 12 months of age. Children receive their second dose of a combined measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (MMRV) vaccine at 18 months of age.
The research, which builds on previous studies that show web-based information has a positive effect on vaccine uptake, surveyed 179 parents. Those recruited to take part in the study were first-time parents whose children were offered the vaccine for the first time from GPs surgeries in the North of England.
Parents were split into three groups: those who visited their GP and were provided with logon details to an MMR website by post, those who visited their GP and given an information leaflet, or those who just had a GP appointment. Two questionnaires were given to parents, one at the start and a second to complete two weeks later to enable the researchers evaluate and compare each group.
The results showed that informing parents about the vaccine via a website was on average cheaper than a leaflet or a GP visit.
Dr Swati Shourie said the cost savings from a new website would be felt most by parents.
"If we are to sustain our high rates of MMR vaccine uptake, it's important that we make it as easy as possible for parents, especially those living in rural or remote areas to access accurate, up to date information," she said.
"At the moment parents rely on their GP to get information or parenting books and both these options cost money. Parents can search the Internet but there's so much information out there it can be confusing. A dedicated website on the MMR vaccine would solve this issue."