Home visits by practice nurses could be a popular method of increasing uptake of routine childhood immunisation at a time when parents are reluctant to go to surgeries in person, a survey suggests.
A survey of parental attitudes towards childhood vaccinations, carried out by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), indicates the Covid-19 crisis has boosted vaccine confidence.
“It could also be interesting to continue to explore innovative and untraditional locations for vaccine delivery”
However, in contrast, it also found that fear of contracting coronavirus had caused a drop in the number of parents happy to take their children to their local GP practice for routine immunisations.
When questioned whether they would take their children to an alternative location for vaccination services, if they were available, the most popular alternative was a home visit by a nurse.
This option was chosen by more than half of relevant respondents and ranked above other alternatives such as drive through services, mobile clinics and the high street pharmacy.
The GSK Vaccine Survey was conducted online by Opinion Matters in May this year. The 2,511 respondents were all parents of children aged between nine months and 10 years old.
The survey found 93% of parents were happy for their children to be vaccinated, generally, and 29% more likely now than before the pandemic to take up vaccinations for their children or themselves.
It also found 45% of parents of young children believed that vaccinations were now more essential to protect against infectious diseases than they were before the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, the majority, 73%, of parents said they were happy for their children to receive vaccinations during the Covid-19 crisis.
However, just 27% of parents were currently comfortable taking their child to a medical centre for vaccinations – down from 91% before the pandemic.
“GPs and practice nurses have now ensured their premises are safe for children and adults to receive routine vaccinations”
Of the 73% who said they would be happy for their child to be vaccinated during lockdown, many were open to taking their children to non-traditional locations for vaccinations, if they were available.
The most popular alternatives were a nurse home visit (55%), a drive-through facility (50%), their local pharmacy (44%) or a mobile medical centre (46%).
Meanwhile, of the 22% of respondents whose child had a vaccination appointment scheduled during lockdown, around a quarter said it had been postponed and the same amount had chosen not to go.
Parents who were not happy for their children to be vaccinated during the outbreak were, unsurprisingly, most concerned about exposing their family or themselves to Covid-19.
The survey also found that 81% of the respondents trusted the NHS as a source of information about vaccines either completely or to a great extent.
Health professionals were the second most trusted source of vaccine information at 78%, while celebrities were the least trusted sources of information with only 3%.
Dr Philip Cruz, UK vaccines medical director at GSK, suggested that looking at different models of how primary care clinicians carried out vaccination could be a positive move.
In light of the Covid-19 crisis, he said: “It’s important that parents feel confident in the safety measures put in place by medical centres, in line with public health and infection control guidelines.
“It could also be interesting to continue to explore innovative and untraditional locations for vaccine delivery. Now is not the time for children to miss scheduled immunisations,” he said.
Commenting on the survey findings, Dr George Kassianos, national immunisation lead at the Royal College of GPs, stressed that surgeries were safe and that parents should be encouraged to visit.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has been a very difficult time for the NHS, healthcare professionals, emergency services and social care, but also for parents and patients.
“General practitioners and practice nurses have now ensured their premises are safe for children and adults to receive routine vaccinations,” he said.