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Parental survey on ‘vaccine hesitancy’ planned by immunisation programme

The HSE national immunisation programme (NIP) is planning to undertake a national survey on ‘vaccine hesitancy’ among parents.

Vaccine hesitancy was identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019.

The WHO defines vaccine hesitancy as the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate, despite the availability of vaccines. It is influenced by factors such as complacency about vaccine-preventable diseases, convenience in accessing vaccines, and confidence in vaccines.

The survey, which was planned to take place before the pandemic, was discussed at the April meeting of the NIP, according to minutes obtained following a Freedom of Information request.

“A national survey of parental attitudes towards vaccination was planned prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but was then put on hold,” a HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent.

“Assistance was sought from HSE procurement regarding internal HSE processes for the procurement of a market research company to assist in carrying out the survey.

“The start date for the survey will depend on a number of factors including feasibility and likely response rate in the context of Covid-19.”

The spokesperson added that the survey is intended to be a “nationally representative survey to determine attitudes towards vaccination of parents in Ireland, focusing on the vaccines included in the national childhood immunisation programme”.

“Funding has been received from the Department of Health to carry out this survey. Similar surveys have been carried out in many other countries including England, Canada, Italy, and the US. The survey is designed to determine whether vaccine hesitancy is an issue among parents in Ireland and whether particular groups are affected.”

In May, the Government announced its plan to extend the influenza vaccine to children without charge. The vaccination will be available to all children aged two to 12 years. The former Minister for Health Simon Harris confirmed that those in HSE-defined at-risk groups, aged from six months to 69 years, will also be able to access the vaccine without charge. All persons aged over 70 already have access without charges.

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