RVF is working with Rospotrebnadzor, the Russian federal agency responsible for immunization, as well as health officials of the city of St. Petersburg and a team of academic experts to address vaccine hesitancy in the Russian Federation. Vaccine hesitancy commonly refers to parents who have reservations about or opt out of vaccinating their children, but also more broadly, according to world-renowned vaccine researcher and RVF board member, Dr. Stanley Plotkin, vaccine-hesitant individuals are a heterogeneous group – including parents, non-parents, healthcare workers or even public officials- who hold varying degrees of indecision about specific vaccines or vaccination in general. RVF research in the city of St. Petersburg has shown that there are health care workers who do not effectively communicate the benefits of childhood vaccines to parents.
The lack of knowledge about essential children’s vaccines on the part of parents is a global phenomenon, which has serious public health repercussions, including “outbreaks of invasive Haemophilus influenzae type b disease, varicella, pneumococcal disease, measles, and pertussis, resulting in the unnecessary suffering of young children and waste of limited public health resources.”[i]
As part of a pilot program, RVF, with the support of Rospotrebnadzor, has launched a three-step initiative to address vaccine hesitancy in St. Petersburg. The first step included the development of questionnaires used to survey parents and healthcare providers in children’s polyclinics in order to determine barriers to vaccination. Over 312 healthcare providers and educators and 314 parents were surveyed. The major barrier to vaccination identified by parents was not having clear advice from physicians on whether to vaccinate their children.
The second step of the program includes the development and implementation of interventions, which is currently ongoing. The major interventions planned include an education campaign to promote childhood vaccination including educational seminars for health care workers.
The final step of the program includes a post-interventional survey to determine the difference in the knowledge and attitudes before and after the intervention. Vaccination coverage rates will be closely monitored during the year as an indicator of the efficacy of the elements of the intervention.
After the final step is completed, RVF and other program partners will review the results of the post-interventional survey and trends in coverage rates. This will help shape the potential expansion of the initiative to other population centers as a replicable model.
[i] Vaccine Hesitancy, Salmon, Daniel A. et al., American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 49, Issue 6, S391 – S398