Background: The perceptions of healthcare students of vaccines have been poorly explored and appropriate training strategies to address possible confidence gaps concerning vaccination for these future professionals is still a subject of debate.
Methods: A questionnaire to assess the perceptions of vaccination and the feeling of preparedness to address patient concerns was submitted to 874 multidisciplinary healthcare students enrolled in the French program "Service Sanitaire des Etudiants en Santé" (SSES). The evolution of their perceptions during the year and the impact of having performed a primary prevention intervention in the context of the SSES program were assessed.
Results: In total, 530 students of nursing (42.5%), medicine (31.5%), physiotherapy (11.3%), pharmacy (10.9%), and midwifery (3.8%) completed the questionnaires. Among them, 7.0% carried out an intervention within the topic "vaccination and hygiene" and 93.0% within another topic ("nutrition and physical activity" or "addiction"). A portion of the students showed traits of vaccine hesitancy, including specific concerns about side effects (61.5%) or the number of vaccines in the vaccination schedule (30.0%). They felt ill prepared to address vaccine-hesitant patients, with poor confidence of their knowledge about vaccines (52.5%), their ability to inform patients about the side effects (42.5%), the benefit/risk of adjuvants (51.7%), and the rules for introducing a new vaccine (51.9%). They showed significant differences in perception depending on their curriculum. Misconceptions and hesitancy concerning vaccines were significantly improved after the students had performed the primary prevention intervention, regardless of the topic.
Conclusions: A portion of French healthcare students show traits of vaccine hesitancy, with significant differences depending on the courses attended. Programs of health promotion, such as the French SSES program, which includes a primary prevention intervention conducted by multidisciplinary groups of students, may improve the global confidence of healthcare students concerning vaccination.
Keywords: Health promotion; Health students; Perception; Vaccine hesitancy.
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