Face to face interventions to inform or educate parents about early childhood vaccination

Childhood vaccination (also described as immunisation) is an important and effective way to reduce childhood illness and death. However, there are many children who do not receive the recommended vaccines because their parents do not know why vaccination is important, do not understand how, where or when to get their children vaccinated, disagree with vaccination as a public health measure, or have concerns about vaccine safety.

Face to face information or education sessions with parents about vaccination is one strategy that may improve vaccination rates and parental knowledge or understanding of vaccination. This review found seven studies with a total of 2978 participants that looked at the effects of face to face vaccination information or education for parents in a mix of high- and low-income countries. The interventions were single- or multi-session educational sessions, delivered to individuals or to groups of parents or soon-to-be parents.

The studies suggest that face to face strategies do not consistently improve either immunisation rates or parent knowledge and understanding of vaccination, but the evidence was low to very low quality for these outcomes. Only one study measured the cost of a face to face case management strategy. In this study, the cost of fully immunising one additional child was eight times the cost of usual care, but the quality of this evidence was very low. No studies measured parents' intention to vaccinate their child or parent experience of intervention, and none of the studies looked at possible harmful outcomes related to the intervention. The results of this review are limited by the small number of included studies, small number of outcomes measured and problems with the way the researchers decided who should receive the intervention and with the way outcomes were assessed.

Authors' conclusions: 

The limited evidence available is low quality and suggests that face to face interventions to inform or educate parents about childhood vaccination have little to no impact on immunisation status, or knowledge or understanding of vaccination. There is insufficient evidence to comment on the cost of implementing the intervention, parent intention to vaccinate, parent experience of the intervention, or adverse effects. Given the apparently limited effect of such interventions, it may be feasible and appropriate to incorporate communication about vaccination into a healthcare encounter, rather than conduct it as a separate activity.

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Background: 

Childhood vaccination (also described as immunisation) is an important and effective way to reduce childhood illness and death. However, there are many children who do not receive the recommended vaccines because their parents do not know why vaccination is important, do not understand how, where or when to get their children vaccinated, disagree with vaccination as a public health measure, or have concerns about vaccine safety.

Face to face interventions to inform or educate parents about routine childhood vaccination may improve vaccination rates and parental knowledge or understanding of vaccination. Such interventions may describe or explain the practical and logistical factors associated with vaccination, and enable parents to understand the meaning and relevance of vaccination for their family or community.

Objectives: 

To assess the effects of face to face interventions for informing or educating parents about early childhood vaccination on immunisation uptake and parental knowledge.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 7); MEDLINE (OvidSP) (1946 to July 2012); EMBASE + Embase Classic (OvidSP) (1947 to July 2012); CINAHL (EbscoHOST) (1981 to July 2012); PsycINFO (OvidSP) (1806 to July 2012); Global Health (CAB) (1910 to July 2012); Global Health Library (WHO) (searched July 2012); Google Scholar (searched September 2012), ISI Web of Science (searched September 2012) and reference lists of relevant articles. We searched for ongoing trials in The International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (searched August 2012) and for grey literature in The Grey Literature Report and OpenGrey (searched August 2012). We also contacted authors of included studies and experts in the field. There were no language or date restrictions.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cluster RCTs evaluating the effects of face to face interventions delivered to individual parents or groups of parents to inform or educate about early childhood vaccination, compared with control or with another face to face intervention. Early childhood vaccines are all recommended routine childhood vaccines outlined by the World Health Organization, with the exception of human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) which is delivered to adolescents.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently reviewed database search results for inclusion. Grey literature searches were conducted and reviewed by a single author. Two authors independently extracted data and assessed the risk of bias of included studies. We contacted study authors for additional information.

Main results: 

We included six RCTs and one cluster RCT involving a total of 2978 participants. Three studies were conducted in low- or middle-income countries and four were conducted in high-income countries. The cluster RCT did not contribute usable data to the review. The interventions comprised a mix of single-session and multi-session strategies. The quality of the evidence for each outcome was low to very low and the studies were at moderate risk of bias overall. All these trials compared face to face interventions directed to individual parents with control.

The three studies assessing the effect of a single-session intervention on immunisation status could not be pooled due to high heterogeneity. The overall result is uncertain because the individual study results ranged from no evidence of effect to a significant increase in immunisation.

Two studies assessed the effect of a multi-session intervention on immunisation status. These studies were also not pooled due to heterogeneity and the result was very uncertain, ranging from a non-significant decrease in immunisation to no evidence of effect.

The two studies assessing the effect of a face to face intervention on knowledge or understanding of vaccination were very uncertain and were not pooled as data from one study were skewed. However, neither study showed evidence of an effect on knowledge scores in the intervention group. Only one study measured the cost of a case management intervention. The estimated additional cost per fully immunised child for the intervention was approximately eight times higher than usual care.

The review also considered the following secondary outcomes: intention to vaccinate child, parent experience of intervention, and adverse effects. No adverse effects related to the intervention were measured by any of the included studies, and there were no data on the other outcomes of interest.