Vaccine safety continues to be a major concern for parents, a study about vaccination consumer concerns has found

Published on Wednesday in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, the study was based on calls to Medicines Line, Australia’s first national Medicines Call Centre.

Safety concerns were the most common reason to call the service (60.4%), with questions about the ‘constituents of vaccines’ responsible for 31.6% of these calls.

In low immunisation areas, there was a higher level of concern about vaccine preservatives such as mercury and thiomersal, despite their removal from vaccines in 2000.

The researchers say this shows myths and outdated information persist as a barrier to immunisation, unless they are dispelled by sources consumers trust.

“If health professionals are aware of this pervasive concern, they could proactively provide parents with evidence and reassurance that registered Australian vaccines used as part of the national immunisation program are thiomersal and mercury free,” the researchers observed.

“Similarly, misinformation about the MMR vaccine still pervades, resulting in a higher proportion of questions compared with other vaccines.

“Health professionals need to know their local immunisation rate and associated carer concerns, to proactively address these information-related barriers to vaccination,” say the authors.

Calls to the NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line were recorded by the answering pharmacist into a standardised, scannable form.

The most commonly asked about vaccine was the MMR (30% of specific vaccine questions), however about 35% of questions were not about a specific vaccine, but about vaccination in general or a group of vaccines.

The question themes could be broadly grouped under six major categories, the researchers found: safety; side effects or adverse drug reactions; information; logistics; dose and other.

“Our findings are consistent with the model put forward by Peretti-Watel and colleagues who consider ‘vaccine hesitancy’ as an intermediate position along a continuum ranging from anti-vaccine to pro-vaccine attitudes,” the authors say.

See the full study here