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The challenge of vaccinating adults: attitudes and beliefs of the Canadian public and healthcare providers


Objectives Vaccine coverage for recommended vaccines is low among adults. The objective of this study was to assess the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of adults and healthcare providers related to four vaccine-preventable diseases and vaccines (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, zoster, pneumococcus and influenza).

Design We undertook a survey and focus groups of Canadian adults and healthcare providers (doctors, nurses, pharmacists). A total of 4023 adults completed the survey and 62 participated in the focus groups; 1167 providers completed the survey and 45 participated in the focus groups.

Results Only 46.3% of adults thought they were up-to-date on their vaccines; 30% did not know. In contrast, 75.6% of providers reported being up-to-date. Only 57.5% of adults thought it was important to receive all recommended vaccines (compared to 87.1–91.5% of providers). Positive attitudes towards vaccines paralleled concern about the burden of illness and confidence in the vaccines, with providers being more aware of disease burden and confident in vaccine effectiveness than the public. Between 55.0% and 59.7% of adults reported willingness to be vaccinated if recommended by their healthcare provider. However, such recommendations were variable; while 77.4% of the public reported being offered and 52.8% reported being recommended the influenza vaccine by their provider, only 10.8% were offered and 5.6% recommended pertussis vaccine. Barriers and facilitators to improved vaccine coverage in adults, such as trust-mistrust of health authorities, pharmaceutical companies and national recommendations, autonomy versus the public good and logistical issues (such as insufficient time and lack of vaccination status tracking), were identified by both the public and providers.

Conclusions Despite guidelines for adult vaccination, there are substantial gaps in knowledge and attitudes and beliefs among both the public and healthcare providers that lead to low vaccine coverage. A systematic approach that involves education, elimination of barriers and establishing and improving infrastructure for adult immunisation is required.


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