Fear of side-effects is the number one reason for choosing not to vaccinate, with the spreading of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media a key challenge, according to a new report from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH).
The Moving the Needle report highlights that there have been small declines in uptake for many childhood vaccinations in England for several years, with ongoing outbreaks of some vaccine-preventable diseases internationally.
Fear of side effects of vaccines was consistently found to be the primary reason for choosing not to vaccinate (except for the childhood flu vaccine, for which it was the second most common reason).
Social media was identified as propagating negative messages around vaccinations, especially for parents, with two in five (41%) saying they are often or sometimes exposed to negative messages about vaccines on social media. This increased to as many as one in two (50%) among parents with children under five years.
In relation to access, the timing, availability and location of appointments were identified as barriers to vaccination across the life course by the public and by healthcare professionals, although the vast majority of people who chose not to vaccinate did not cite inconvenience as a key factor.
The RSPH suggests that taking a multi-pronged approach to improving and maintaining uptake is essential. This includes reducing mistrust in the safety and efficacy of vaccines, improving awareness of the value of vaccines, and improving access to vaccines.
It is recommended that health professionals should use the Making Every Contact Count (MECC) approach to ensure vaccine advice is delivered across the health system
Efforts to limit health misinformation online and via social media should be increased, especially by social media platforms themselves, the report says.