Parents' and guardians' views and experiences of accessing routine childhood vaccinations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: A mixed methods study in England

PLoS One. 2020 Dec 28;15(12):e0244049. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0244049. eCollection 2020.

Abstract

Objective: To explore parents' and guardians' views and experiences of accessing National Health Service (NHS) general practices for routine childhood vaccinations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in England.

Design: Mixed methods approach involving an online cross-sectional survey (conducted between 19th April and 11th May 2020) and semi-structured telephone interviews (conducted between 27th April and 27th May 2020).

Participants: 1252 parents and guardians (aged 16+ years) who reported living in England with a child aged 18 months or under completed the survey. Nineteen survey respondents took part in follow-up interviews.

Results: The majority of survey respondents (85.7%) considered it important for their children to receive routine vaccinations on schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, several barriers to vaccination were identified. These included a lack of clarity around whether vaccination services were operating as usual, particularly amongst respondents from lower income households and those self-reporting as Black, Asian, Chinese, Mixed or Other ethnicity; difficulties in organising vaccination appointments; and fears around contracting COVID-19 while attending general practice. Concerns about catching COVID-19 while accessing general practice were weighed against concerns about children acquiring a vaccine-preventable disease if they did not receive scheduled routine childhood vaccinations. Many parents and guardians felt their child's risk of acquiring a vaccine-preventable disease was low as the implementation of stringent physical distancing measures (from March 23rd 2020) meant they were not mixing with others.

Conclusion: To promote routine childhood vaccination uptake during the current COVID-19 outbreak, further waves of COVID-19 infection, and future pandemics, prompt and sustained national and general practice level communication is needed to raise awareness of vaccination service continuation and the importance of timely vaccination, and invitation-reminder systems for vaccination need to be maintained. To allay concerns about the safety of accessing general practice, practices should communicate the measures being implemented to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization / psychology
  • Legal Guardians / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Vaccination / psychology*
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Immunisation at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in partnership with Public Health England. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health or Public Health England.