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Open Access Research article

Influenza vaccination during pregnancy: a qualitative study of the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of general practitioners in Central and South-Western Sydney

Louise Maher12*, Angela Dawson3, Kerrie Wiley45, Kirsty Hope6, Siranda Torvaldsen2, Glenda Lawrence2 and Stephen Conaty6

Author Affiliations

1 NSW Public Health Officer Training Program, NSW Ministry of Health, 73 Miller St, North Sydney, NSW 2060, Australia

2 School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, High St, Kensington, NSW 2052, Australia

3 Health Services and Practice Research Group, Faculty of Health, University of Technology, 15 Broadway, Ultimo, NSW 2007, Australia

4 National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Locked bag 4001, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia

5 Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia

6 Sydney and South Western Sydney Local Health Districts Public Health Unit, PO Box 374, Camperdown, Sydney 1450, Austraila

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:102  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-102

Published: 23 May 2014

Abstract

Background

Pregnant women have an increased risk of influenza complications. Influenza vaccination during pregnancy is safe and effective, however coverage in Australia is less than 40%. Pregnant women who receive a recommendation for influenza vaccination from a health care provider are more likely to receive it, however the perspectives of Australian general practitioners has not previously been reported. The aim of the study was to investigate the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of general practitioners practicing in South-Western Sydney, Australia towards influenza vaccination during pregnancy.

Methods

A qualitative descriptive study was conducted, with semi-structured interviews completed with seventeen general practitioners in October 2012. A thematic analysis was undertaken by four researchers, and transcripts were analysed using N-Vivo software according to agreed codes.

Results

One-third of the general practitioners interviewed did not consider influenza during pregnancy to be a serious risk for the mother or the baby. The majority of the general practitioners were aware of the government recommendations for influenza vaccination during pregnancy, but few general practitioners were confident of their knowledge about the vaccine and most felt they needed more information. More than half the general practitioners had significant concerns about the safety of influenza vaccination during pregnancy. Their practices in the provision of the vaccine were related to their perception of risk of influenza during pregnancy and their confidence about the safety of the vaccine. While two-thirds reported that they are recommending influenza vaccination to their pregnant patients, many were adopting principles of patient-informed choice in their approach and encouraged women to decide for themselves whether they would receive the vaccine.

Conclusions

General practitioners have varied knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about influenza vaccination during pregnancy, which influence their practices. Addressing these could have a significant impact on improving vaccine uptake during pregnancy.

Keywords:
Influenza; Vaccine; Pregnancy; General practitioners; Recommendation