Introduction: In 2013, the annual influenza immunisation programme in England was extended to children to reduce the burden of influenza, but uptake was sub-optimal at 53.2%.
Aim: To explore the reasons some parents decided not to vaccinate their child against influenza as part of the pilot programme offered in schools.
Methods: Cross-sectional qualitative study conducted between February and July 2015. 913 parents whose children were not vaccinated against influenza in the school pilots in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, England, were asked to comment on their reasons for non-vaccination and invited to take part in a semi-structured interview. 138 parents returned response forms, of which 38 were eligible and interested in participating and 25 were interviewed. Interview transcripts were coded by theme in NVivo.
Results: A third of parents who returned response forms had either vaccinated their child elsewhere, intended to have them vaccinated, or had not vaccinated them due to medical reasons (valid or perceived). Most interviewees were not convinced of the need to vaccinate their child against influenza. Parents expressed concerns about influenza vaccine effectiveness and vaccine side effects. Several parents interviewed declined the vaccine for faith reasons due to the presence of porcine gelatine in the vaccine.
Conclusions: To significantly decrease the burden of influenza in England, influenza vaccination coverage in children needs to be >60%. Hence, it is important to understand the reasons why parents are not vaccinating their children, and to tailor the communication and immunisation programme accordingly. Our finding that a third of parents, who did not consent to their child being vaccinated as part of the school programme, had actually vaccinated their child elsewhere, intended to have their child vaccinated, or had not vaccinated them due to medical reasons, illustrates the importance of including additional questions or data sources when investigating under-vaccination.
Keywords: England; Influenza vaccine; Vaccination programme; Vaccine hesitancy.
Copyright © 2017 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.