Our Improving Immunisations Uptake Team has developed a 'Top tips for Health Visitors' guide to encourage open conversations with families about immunisations, including those families who may have concerns.
As leaders of the Healthy Child Programme, Health Visitors (HV) provide evidence-based advice and support to families with children aged 0-5, including childhood immunisations. Our work with primary care teams to improve childhood immunisation uptake rates includes the provision of additional training/support to our HV colleagues - and our team clinicians all have HV backgrounds. Recently, the Improving Immunisation Uptake Team (IIUT) was proud to support our HV colleagues in the Thames Valley to deliver a series of health days for Afghan migrant families. The IIUT also provides telephone/email support to individual HVs and teams in the communities we serve.
Here are our ‘Top tips for Health Visitors’, which encourages HVs to have open conversations with families about immunisations, including those families who may have questions or concerns. The WHO listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to health in 2019.
Childhood Immunisations - Top Tips for Health Visitors
- Make every contact count - check immunisation status at every opportunity
- Obtain immunisation histories for all under 5s, reliable verbal history? Can use best guess dates.
- Check the immunisation status when following up on 111/A&E notices.
- Transfers in - check histories / take photo evidence
- Transfers in - obtain email addresses / contact details.
- Use a translation tool - UK and international immunisation schedules comparison tool - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Use or signpost families to Migrant Health leaflet - available digitally in 10 languages
- Uncertain history? Advise starting immunisation again
- Ensure parents know they can restart immunisation at any time, even if they've refused previously.
- Vaccine hesitancy - signpost parents and encourage open discussions
- Vaccine hesitancy - parents trust HCPs and often have questions regarding immunisation. A call to a parent can help them make the right decision for their child and alleviate concerns.
- Vaccine knowledge - refer hesitant parents to the evidence-based information produced by Oxford University
- Immunisation refusals - email/verbal/signed refusals are accepted. Send an email confirming informed discussion has taken place with parent/clinician and inform CHIS/GP.
What do we know about parents and their thoughts on vaccines?
We know that they get their information from and trust Health Visitors. Recent evidence has shown that a recommendation from health care professionals such as Health Visitors is very powerful - so use that word. Signposting families to further information on vaccines such as the Oxford Vaccine Group website can also aid discussions.
The reasons why families choose not to vaccinate are complex, three key reasons include - complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence.
Our work with primary care colleagues and Health Visitors aims to support families by identifying and acknowledging their reasons for not vaccinating children, addressing those reasons, and facilitating open discussions to provide them with the facts, so that they can make the right decisions for their children. If families do decide not to vaccinate, this should be respected, alongside reassuring them that should they choose to, they can restart vaccinations at any time.
The IIUT are passionate about, and committed to, supporting the primary care colleagues, families, and communities in the areas we serve, to ensure every child counts.
Find out more about the work we do to support improving immunisation uptake.