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Parents prefer childhood vaccinations to be done at a GP practice

by Emma Wilkinson
6 February 2023

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A survey by the UK Health Security Agency has shown that parents overwhelmingly want childhood vaccinations to happen at the GP practice.

In a questionnaire for parents of under-fives on vaccine attitudes, respondents were asked to rate on a scale of one to ten whether they would prefer vaccines to be given in a mass vaccination centre, another community venue, a pharmacy or at the GP.

Well over 80% said they would definitely use the GP practice for vaccinating their baby or child.

Parents most strongly objected to use of a mass vaccination centre for routine childhood immunisations.

In a separate question more than 90% of parents said they liked to have their child vaccinated at their GP practice.

Results from the survey of almost 1,500 parents also found that 92% were happy with vaccine safety and 81% said they had enough information to make an informed decision about vaccination.

In all 15% of parents had come across information that made them concerned about vaccines, which had mostly come from friends or Facebook and was around Covid-19, MMR or the six-in-one vaccine.

Concerns have been raised about falling vaccine confidence after figures published in September showed no routine childhood vaccination met the 95% uptake target set by the World Health Organization.

Falling uptake for MMR vaccination – dropping to 89.2% for one-year olds – led to the announcement of a catch-up campaign.

Plans to put a national vaccination service in place are underway to ensure GPs are not asked to stop routine work again as they did for Covid jabs.

It is unclear which vaccinations will be covered by the scheme but NHS England board papers in May last year said: ‘Opportunities for alignment and co-administration including catch up across all our vaccination programmes’.

The new service could launch as early as next year, according to procurement plans last summer.

NHS England said they did not commission the survey and GP practice is the delivery model for pre-school vaccines.

Dr Helen Campbell, senior clinical scientist at UKHSA said: ‘While methodologies differ, the 2022 survey findings are reassuring and broadly similar to a parental attitudes survey conducted in 2019, with reported measures of vaccine confidence such as safety, trust and whether vaccines work, remaining high.’ 

Dr Hussain Gandhi, a GP in Nottingham said he suspected after Covid there were plans to move vaccinations away from practices into community care, which may work in some areas but less so in others and could further impact inequalities.

‘There are various implications as often other health checks are done at the time of vaccines, continuity etc, and the payments practices get from vaccines are part of the sustainability for primary care.’

Dr Lis Galloway, a GP in Surrey, said most GPs would support vaccination being as accessible as possible but there were important reasons for doing immunisation in practices.

‘A vaccination appointment is not only about providing immunisation, it’s an opportunity to foster relationships with young families, build trust and identify potential issues/offer support at an early stage.

‘With the decimation of health visiting services over the past decade, routine vaccination appointments are the only contact with health professionals for some young children.’

A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse.