More than half of all pregnant women can’t recall receiving any information about infant immunisation, according to the latest findings from the Growing Up in New Zealand study. But they are still far more likely to immunise their babies on time than women who receive negative information, and will immunise just as promptly as women who receive only positive information.
These new research findings from the University of Auckland Centre for Longitudinal Research – He Ara ki Mua were published on 18 August in the journal Pediatrics. This publication reports the findings from a project that analysed the data from the longitudinal child study Growing Up in New Zealand.
Study senior author Professor Cameron Grant says that children need to receive scheduled vaccinations on time for national immunisation programmes to have their maximal health benefits. The series of immunisations for babies in the first months of life is particularly important as delays increase the risk of hospital admissions attributable to vaccine-preventable diseases.
As part of the study, more than 6,000 pregnant women were asked what information they had received about infant immunisation during a face-to-face interview in the final weeks of their pregnancies. With parental consent, the study then used the National Immunisation Register to check the timeliness of the women’s babies’ immunisations.
Fewer than half (44 per cent) of the 6,182 mothers interviewed recalled having received any information about the immunisations of their future children. Thirty per cent said they had received only encouraging information, while nine per cent received both encouraging and discouraging advice and five percent received only discouraging information.
Of those women who did not recall receiving any information during pregnancy, 70 per cent of their babies were immunised within a month of the vaccine due date. This compares with 57 per cent of babies of women who received discouraging information and 61 per cent of the babies of women who received both encouraging and discouraging information.
The babies of women who received only encouraging information about immunisation during their pregnancies were no more likely to be immunised on time than the babies of women who received no information.
The main sources of immunisation information identified by the women were healthcare providers (identified by 35 per cent), family and friends (14 per cent), and media (14 per cent).
Most said they received only encouraging information from healthcare providers, while the main sources of discouraging information were family and friends and media.
Professor Grant says he was concerned to see that one in six women who recalled receiving discouraging information identified healthcare providers as a source of that information.
“It is clear that pregnant women receiving information which discourages infant immunisation has a negative effect on subsequent healthcare delivery to that infant, even when they have also received information which encourages immunisation,” says Grant.
But receiving encouraging information about infant immunisation during the pregnancy was no more effective in ensuring timely immunisation than receiving no information.
“The ambiguity created by pregnant women receiving conflicting advice about infant immunisation is an area which requires some focused attention,” says Grant.
“We cannot prevent pregnant women from being exposed to information discouraging immunisation, but we can improve the ways in which we deliver encouraging information and ensure that they meet the information needs of everyone.”
Study details: Veerasingam P, Grant CC, Chelimo C, Philipson K, Gilchrist CA, Berry S, Atatoa Carr P, Camargo Jr CA, Morton S (2017). Vaccine education during pregnancy and timeliness of infant immunization. Pediatrics