Interventions aimed at communities for informing and/or educating about early childhood vaccination

Researchers in The Cochrane Collaboration conducted a review of the effect of informing or educating members of the community about early childhood vaccination. After searching for all relevant studies, they found two studies, published in 2007 and 2009. Their findings are summarised below.

What are interventions aimed at communities for childhood immunisation?

Childhood vaccinations can prevent illness and death, but many children do not get vaccinated. There are a number of reasons for this. One reason may be that families lack knowledge about the diseases that vaccines can prevent, how vaccinations work, or how, where or when to get their children vaccinated. People may also have concerns (or may be misinformed) about the benefits and harms of different vaccines.

Giving people information or education so that they can make informed decisions about their health is an important part of all health systems. Vaccine information and education aims to increase people's knowledge of and change their attitudes to vaccines and the diseases that these vaccines can prevent. Vaccine information or education is often given face-to-face to individual parents, for instance during home visits or at the clinic. Another Cochrane Review assessed the impact of this sort of information. But this information can also be given to larger groups in the community, for instance at public meetings and women's clubs, through television or radio programmes, or through posters and leaflets. In this review, we have looked at information or education that targeted whole communities rather than individual parents or caregivers.

The review found two studies. The first study took place in India. Here, families, teachers, children and village leaders were encouraged to attend information meetings where they were given information about childhood vaccination and could ask questions. Posters and leaflets were also distributed in the community. The second study was from Pakistan. Here, people who were considered to be trusted in the community were invited to meetings where they discussed the current rates of vaccine coverage in their community and the costs and benefits of childhood vaccination. They were also asked to develop local action plans, to share the information they had been given and continue the discussions with households in their communities.

What happens when members of the community are informed or educated about vaccines?

The studies showed that community-based information or education:

- may improve knowledge of vaccines or vaccine-preventable diseases;

- probably increases the number of children who get vaccinated (both the study in India and the study in Pakistan showed that there is probably an increase in the number of vaccinated children);

- may make little or no difference to the involvement of mothers in decision-making about vaccination;

- may change attitudes in favour of vaccination among parents with young children;

We assessed all of this evidence to be of low or moderate certainty.

The studies did not assess whether this type of information or education led to better knowledge among participants about vaccine service delivery or increased their confidence in the decision made. Nor did the studies assess how much this information and education cost or whether it led to any unintended harms.

Authors' conclusions: 

This review provides limited evidence that interventions aimed at communities to inform and educate about early childhood vaccination may improve attitudes towards vaccination and probably increase vaccination uptake under some circumstances. However, some of these interventions may be resource intensive when implemented on a large scale and further rigorous evaluations are needed. These interventions may achieve most benefit when targeted to areas or groups that have low childhood vaccination rates.’

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

A range of strategies are used to communicate with parents, caregivers and communities regarding child vaccination in order to inform decisions and improve vaccination uptake. These strategies include interventions in which information is aimed at larger groups in the community, for instance at public meetings, through radio or through leaflets. This is one of two reviews on communication interventions for childhood vaccination. The companion review focuses on face-to-face interventions for informing or educating parents.

Objectives: 

To assess the effects of interventions aimed at communities to inform and/or educate people about vaccination in children six years and younger.

Search strategy: 

We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE and five other databases up to July 2012. We searched for grey literature in the Grey Literature Report and OpenGrey. We also contacted authors of included studies and experts in the field. There were no language, date or settings restrictions.

Selection criteria: 

Individual or cluster-randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials, interrupted time series (ITS) and repeated measures studies, and controlled before-and-after (CBA) studies. We included interventions aimed at communities and intended to inform and/or educate about vaccination in children six years and younger, conducted in any setting. We defined interventions aimed at communities as those directed at a geographic area, and/or interventions directed to groups of people who share at least one common social or cultural characteristic. Primary outcomes were: knowledge among participants of vaccines or vaccine-preventable diseases and of vaccine service delivery; child immunisation status; and unintended adverse effects. Secondary outcomes were: participants' attitudes towards vaccination; involvement in decision-making regarding vaccination; confidence in the decision made; and resource use or cost of intervention.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently reviewed the references to identify studies for inclusion. We extracted data and assessed risk of bias in all included studies.

Main results: 

We included two cluster-randomised trials that compared interventions aimed at communities to routine immunisation practices. In one study from India, families, teachers, children and village leaders were encouraged to attend information meetings where they received information about childhood vaccination and could ask questions. In the second study from Pakistan, people who were considered to be trusted in the community were invited to meetings to discuss vaccine coverage rates in their community and the costs and benefits of childhood vaccination. They were asked to develop local action plans and to share the information they had been given and continue the discussions in their communities.

The trials show low certainty evidence that interventions aimed at communities to inform and educate about childhood vaccination may improve knowledge of vaccines or vaccine-preventable diseases among intervention participants (adjusted mean difference 0.121, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.055 to 0.189). These interventions probably increase the number of children who are vaccinated. The study from India showed that the intervention probably increased the number of children who received vaccinations (risk ratio (RR) 1.67, 95% CI 1.21 to 2.31; moderate certainty evidence). The study from Pakistan showed that there is probably an increase in the uptake of both measles (RR 1.63, 95% CI 1.03 to 2.58) and DPT (diptheria, pertussis and tetanus) (RR 2.17, 95% CI 1.43 to 3.29) vaccines (both moderate certainty evidence), but there may be little or no difference in the number of children who received polio vaccine (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.97 to 1.05; low certainty evidence). There is also low certainty evidence that these interventions may change attitudes in favour of vaccination among parents with young children (adjusted mean difference 0.054, 95% CI 0.013 to 0.105), but they may make little or no difference to the involvement of mothers in decision-making regarding childhood vaccination (adjusted mean difference 0.043, 95% CI -0.009 to 0.097).

The studies did not assess knowledge among participants of vaccine service delivery; participant confidence in the vaccination decision; intervention costs; or any unintended harms as a consequence of the intervention. We did not identify any studies that compared interventions aimed at communities to inform and/or educate with interventions directed to individual parents or caregivers, or studies that compared two interventions aimed at communities to inform and/or educate about childhood vaccination.

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