Academics from the School of Health Sciences reviewed research conducted in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Published (Updated )
Researchers have found that strong evidence is needed to demonstrate the influence of practice nurses on the uptake of the MMR vaccine, considering their well-documented role in the national immunisation programme.
This comes at a time when the uptake of this vaccine is falling for the fourth consecutive year, as highlighted in The Guardian last week.
Published online in the Journal of Advanced Nursing and conducted by researchers at City, University of London, the integrative literature review searched for existing research which explored the beliefs and perceptions of practice nurses regarding the MMR vaccine, and included 12 studies in the final analysis.
These studies included research from Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, with publications from 2001 and 2014.
The results revealed that practice nurses perceived several factors influencing parents’ decision making in relation to immunisation, most notably the impact of socio economic status and concerns about vaccine safety. While education and training was considered an important factor by practice nurses in their consultations with parents, they reported the challenge of keeping up to date with immunisation knowledge.
Practice nurses reported receiving variable levels of immunisation relevant education. Decision making for parents about the immunisation needs of their children is a complex process. Principle health professionals involved in national immunisation programmes, which include the MMR vaccine, are general practitioners, health visitors and practice nurses.
Although there is evidence that health visitors and general practitioners can, in part, influence parental immunisation decision making, there is a lack of evidence about the influence of the practice nurse. This is despite practice nurses’ well-documented role in national immunisation programmes, which prompted the necessity to undertake this integrative review.
The researchers acknowledge that two thirds of the studies included in the review were published over 10 years ago. Therefore, these results may not accurately portray current views of practice nurses. As there is still insufficient knowledge about the influence of practice nurses concerning the MMR vaccine, this integrative review recognises the need to further explore their beliefs concerning this vaccine.
Marie Hill, Senior Lecturer in Practice Nursing at City, University of London and lead author of the review said:
"The results of this integrative review illustrate the important public health role that practice nurses play in national immunisation programmes. At a time when there is an increasing incidence of measles across Europe, especially since 2017, it is imperative that practice nurses continue to engage with, address queries and encourage uptake of the MMR vaccine."
Professor Debra Salmon, Dean, School of Health Sciences, City, University of London and one of the co-authors of the review said:
"It is crucial that practice nurses have access to immunisation training and annual updates to promote MMR uptake, not only to parents, but to adolescents and younger adults considering the increasing incidence of Measles cases in England, as reported in the media this week."