Vaccines: Practices, hesitancy among general physicians in France

At population level, vaccines contribute to reducing mortality associated with infectious diseases such as measles, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B or bacterial meningitis. The community general physician, at the centre of this preventive strategy, remains the main source of information for families. In an article published in the journal Ebiomedecine, Pierre Verger (Inserm Unit 912, “Economics and Social Sciences Applied to Health and Analysis of Medical Information — SESSTIM”) and his collaborators present and analyse the attitudes and practices of over 1,500 general physicians in France, in a context of distrust toward vaccines.

Vaccination is the most effective means of preventing, or even eliminating, many infectious diseases. However, in recent years, a growing number of unfavourable opinions regarding the latter has been observed among the general population in France.

Given the widespread scepticism, which is contributing to inadequate coverage for some vaccines, the general physician plays a major role in matters of prevention and information. The survey, conducted by Pierre Verger (Inserm Unit 912, “Economics and Social Sciences Applied to Health and Analysis of Medical Information — SESSTIM”) between April and July 2014, has attempted to capture the practices of general physicians in different vaccination scenarios. The results obtained provide a better understanding of the factors in the reticence–or confidence–of physicians with respect to some vaccines.

Physicians’ recommendations vary with the situation.

1st reassuring finding: Almost all physicians questioned (96%) are confident in their ability to explain the usefulness of vaccines to their patients. Nonetheless, this figure falls to 43% when it comes to speaking about the role of adjuvants, and justifying their use.

2nd finding: The recommendations of general physicians vary with the vaccination scenario: 83% often, or even automatically, recommend the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to adolescents and young adults, but only 57% advise vaccination against type C meningococcal infections for children and young people aged 2-24 years, although the latter is part of the vaccination schedule. “Their hesitation to vaccinate might also reinforce that of patients, and contribute to inadequate vaccine coverage, particularly for controversial vaccines,” according to the authors of this article.

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