Docplexus Survey Series – #4: Evaluating the Need for Awareness about Pediatric Vaccines
According to Unicef, India leads the world in the number of births (>26 million per year). It also accounts for over one-fifth of the total child mortality. Routine immunization (RI) of infants and pregnant mothers is an important element of the Indian government’s efforts to reduce this number. The UIP (Universal Immunization Programme) introduced in 1985, aims to expand RI to protect every eligible child from vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, measles & Japanese encephalitis. It also supports new vaccines for pentavalent, Hepatitis B and rubella.
Despite 9 million RI sessions being held every year, India still accounts for the largest number (7.4 million) of non-immunized children in the world. Over two-third of children receive late vaccinations in the country. In 2016, 37% did not receive all of the mandatory vaccines. Docplexus’ latest survey attempts to gain doctors’ perspectives on the main reasons for low vaccination rates and the most effective ways to increase them.
Aim – To assess the need for creating awareness of pediatric vaccination in India.
Survey Methodology – Pan-India online poll on Docplexus members.
Sample Size – 74 physicians. A majority of the respondents were pediatricians, followed by general practitioners, family practitioners, and infections & infectious disease specialists.
The survey revealed the following main opinions:
- The onus of polio eradication lies with the government
Doctors feel that the government’s sustained efforts to eliminate polio hold the key to maintaining India’s ‘zero-polio case’ status since 2011. About 24% of the respondents also opined that their insistence can influence parents to give OPV to their children. Close to 15 doctors reaffirmed the positive effects of celebrity endorsements on higher rate of OPV.
- There is great hesitation to vaccinate children, fear being the main reason
Most of the people who choose not to vaccinate their children do it because they fear that the vaccine will prove counter-effective, that is, it will infect the child rather that protect it. In fact, misconceptions about the vaccines’ effects were thought to be the single most important barrier to higher vaccination rates. Common myths include weakening of the immune system, pros of natural infection vis-a-vis vaccination for building immunity, serious side effects of vaccines, breastfeeding as a substitute for vaccination, etc. This signifies the pressing need for targeted campaigns to eradicate the skepticism and reiterate the immense benefits of vaccines. Doctors also considered the lack of education and immunization costs to be the other main obstacles to higher vaccination.
- Dissemination of detailed information regarding the vaccines’ benefits is of great importance
Almost 40% of the doctors felt that, on their part, they can educate people by providing them with in-depth information on the benefits of vaccines on children’s health. 22% claimed that information leaflets/brochures in clinics and a push towards better national immunization programs will make a positive difference.
- Several other vaccines should be made mandatory
Only 6 doctors felt that optional vaccines for diseases like Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV), Influenza, Rotavirus and Pneumococcal Conjugate should not be added to the compulsory list. All the other respondents voted equally for each of the above-mentioned vaccines to be made mandatory.
It is obvious that clinicians vouch for vaccinations as a great cost-effective mechanism to control and prevent life-threatening infectious diseases. They believe that dedicated efforts to spread awareness will ensure that even the most hard-to-reach and poor population gets immunized.
Coming Up – Survey on Management of Invasive Fungal Infections
Survey #1: What Doctors feel about Antibiotics Misuse