Looking at Aboriginal vaccine uptake

Nearly a third of survey respondents were unaware of their eligibility for free influenza vaccination, and more than half believed the vaccine could cause flu

Researchers from the University of NSW surveyed 273 Aboriginal adults at the 2017 New South Wales Koori Knockout (29 September–2 October) regarding their knowledge about the flu vaccine.

Their results, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, found that while the majority of participants (70%) were aware of their eligibility for free vaccination, more than half (56%) were unvaccinated.

Nearly a third (30%) of respondents were unaware of their eligibility for free influenza vaccination.

“Our survey analysis shows that misconceptions seem to play a key role in preventing Aboriginal people from getting the flu vaccine,” explained one of the authors, Associate Lecturer Telphia Joseph.

“The most prevalent misconceptions centred around vaccine effectiveness (nearly 60% of participants didn’t think it was very effective), and safety (52% believed that the vaccine could cause influenza).

“Substantial proportions of respondents also believed that influenza is not a serious disease (35%), and that natural immunity or other non-vaccine methods of protection were better at avoiding infection (40%).”

Regarding health service access, few reported experiencing difficulty (17%), feeling uncomfortable (15%) or being discriminated against (8%).

Most (83%) could easily access an influenza vaccination service, and there was no association between participants who reported they could easily access primary healthcare and vaccination status (=0.50)

More than half (58%) had been told by a doctor to be vaccinated.

However 53% reported not receiving a reminder from a health professional, and about one fifth (21%) had not been told to get flu vaccine by anyone.

Most respondents did not recall seeing promotional material directed at Aboriginal people. Participants who had been exposed to media specifically targeting Aboriginal people were significantly more likely to be vaccinated.

The authors say their results are supported by other studies demonstrating that cost is not the only barrier to primary healthcare delivery to indigenous people.

“While access is a barrier in some settings due to remoteness or cost or the lack of culturally appropriate services, this did not seem to be the case among our study population,” they said.

“Other barriers that may be relevant are simply finding the time, which was frequently mentioned by our respondents, and the need for more active follow‐up and a greater variety of delivery models.”

The researchers also conducted a focus group with 13 Aboriginal Immunisation Healthcare Workers.

Among this group, it was suggested that identification of Aboriginal patients was a huge problem in areas where an Aboriginal Medical Service is not available.

It was also reported that most general practices do not know how many Aboriginal patients they have, and this becomes an issue when deciding who to offer certain vaccines to.

One participant stated: “it’s very important to educate and empower Aboriginal community members to not be ashamed of who they are and that it’s for their own health benefit if they identify; they’re not getting into trouble, as this is a common misconception when it comes to identification”.

See the full study here

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