New research led by a scholar from The University of Western Australia has found that the majority of midwives support vaccinations for babies and children.
Dr Katie Attwell, a senior lecturer in UWA’s School of Social Sciences, reviewed nine studies from five developed countries about midwives’ beliefs, attitudes and communication practices toward childhood vaccination, as part of a project funded by the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, Telethon Kids Institute.
Her co-authors on the study, published in Vaccine, included national and international vaccination and vaccine hesitancy experts Kerrie Wiley, Tom Snelling, Claire Waddington and Julie Leask.
Dr Attwell said vaccine hesitancy in industrialised countries was an area of concern and while health professionals played a significant role in parental vaccination decisions, the role of midwives had not previously been widely explored.
“What we found across the studies was that the majority of midwives supported vaccination, although a wide variety of beliefs and concerns emerged,” she said.
“We made a point of separately considering the place of midwifery within the country in which each individual study was conducted. It was surprising, for example, how different Australia and Canada are, with Australia utilising midwives’ expertise front and centre in public antenatal care, whereas the entire profession has been very marginalised in Canada.
“The contexts in which midwives work are likely to make a big difference to how they think about many things including vaccination. We found in the articles we reviewed, a minority of midwives expressed reservations about the scientific justification for vaccination, which focused on what is not yet known rather than mistrust of current evidence.
“Most midwives felt that vaccines were safe; a minority were unsure, or believed they were unsafe. The majority of midwives agreed that childhood vaccines are necessary.”
Among those who expressed doubt, a commonly held opinion was that vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles were relatively benign and didn’t warrant vaccination against them, Dr Attwell said.
The midwifery model of care was shown to focus on providing individualised care, with parental choice being placed at a premium.
“The midwifery model of care appears to differ in approach from others, possibly due to a difference in the underpinning philosophies,” Dr Attwell said. “Research is needed to understand how midwives see vaccination, and why there appears to be a spectrum of views on the subject.”
The results of the review would be used to inform development of resources tailored to the midwifery model of care, supporting midwives in advocating for childhood vaccination, Dr Attwell said.
The University of Western Australia