Teenagers’ understandings of and attitudes towards vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases: a qualitative study

Hilton, S. , Patterson, C. , Smith, E., Bedford, H. and Hunt, K. (2013) Teenagers’ understandings of and attitudes towards vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases: a qualitative study. Vaccine, 31(22), pp. 2543-2550. (doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.04.023)

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<p>Background: To examine immunisation information needs of teenagers we explored understandings of vaccination and vaccine-preventable diseases, attitudes towards immunisation and experiences of immunisation. Diseases discussed included nine for which vaccines are currently offered in the UK (human papillomavirus, meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella), and two not currently included in the routine UK schedule (hepatitis B and chickenpox).</p> <p>Methods Twelve focus groups conducted between November 2010 and March 2011 with 59 teenagers (29 girls and 30 boys) living in various parts of Scotland.</p> <p>Results Teenagers exhibited limited knowledge and experience of the diseases, excluding chickenpox. Measles, mumps and rubella were perceived as severe forms of chickenpox-like illness, and rubella was not associated with foetal damage. Boys commonly believed that human papillomavirus only affects girls, and both genders exhibited confusion about its relationship with cancer. Participants considered two key factors when assessing the threat of diseases: their prevalence in the UK, and their potential to cause fatal or long-term harm. Meningitis was seen as a threat, but primarily to babies. Participants explained their limited knowledge as a result of mass immunisation making once-common diseases rare in the UK, and acknowledged immunisation's role in reducing disease prevalence.</p> <p>Conclusions While it is welcome that fewer teenagers have experienced vaccine-preventable diseases, this presents public health advocates with the challenge of communicating benefits of immunisation when advantages are less visible. The findings are timely in view of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's recommendation that a booster of meningitis C vaccine should be offered to teenagers; that teenagers did not perceive meningitis C as a significant threat should be a key concern of promotional information. While teenagers’ experiences of immunisation in school were not always positive, they seemed enthusiastic at the prospect of introducing more vaccines for their age group.</p>

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Hunt, Professor Kathryn and Patterson, Dr Chris and Hilton, Professor Shona
Authors: Hilton, S., Patterson, C., Smith, E., Bedford, H., and Hunt, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:Vaccine
ISSN (Online):1873-2518
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2013 The Authors
First Published:First published in Vaccine 31(22):2543-2550
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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