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The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted routine vaccination services worldwide, leading to a notable decline in childhood vaccination rates. This has been particularly acute in low and middle-income countries, but wealthy countries like Australia aren’t immune. To learn more about the impact of the pandemic, a study was conducted by Victorian researchers to understand how COVID influenced parental perceptions of routine childhood vaccinations in Australia, examining the shifts in attitudes from 2017 to 2023.

Researchers conducted two cross-sectional online surveys. The first survey took place over a month in 2017 and the second over the same period in 2023. These surveys targeted a sample of Australian parents, ensuring a mix that represented various demographics including age, gender and socioeconomic status. The questions explored parents’ beliefs about common vaccination misconceptions and their children’s vaccination status.

The results showed a concerning trend: a significant increase in vaccine hesitancy among Australian parents. In 2023, 25 per cent of parents believed that children receive too many vaccines, up from 17 per cent in 2017. Beliefs in misconceptions such as vaccines causing autism rose to 14 per cent from 8 per cent, and concerns about harmful ingredients in vaccines increased to 19 per cent from 14 per cent. The study also found a decrease in the vaccination rates reported by parents, with fully vaccinated children dropping from 94% in 2017 to 87% in 2023. These shifts were more pronounced in certain demographic groups, including younger parents, single parents, and those in urban areas.

The findings highlight a growing public health concern regarding the erosion of trust in vaccinations post-pandemic. This decline in vaccination rates and increase in vaccine hesitancy could potentially lead to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. The study underscores the need for targeted public health campaigns to rebuild trust in vaccines and address the misconceptions that have become more widespread during COVID-19.


Further information
Misperceptions about routine childhood vaccination among parents in Australia, before and after the COVID‐19 pandemic: a cross‐sectional survey study: Medical Journal of Australia

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