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New frontiers in vaccine hesitancy research: a border-spanning collaboration

An exciting project is taking shape at WithinReach. After nine years of extraordinary work in the vaccine hesitancy field, Vax Northwest is embarking on a new project, and we’re doing so with new partners—
a wide range of researchers from, or interested in, the midwifery community who come from both the United States and Canada.

Midwives are a very influential group of health care providers. Midwives attend 8.3% of births in the United States [1], but their knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about vaccines have not been robustly studied. Likewise, we know very little about the people who seek care from the midwifery community. In our attempt to engage as many leverage points as possible in building vaccine confidence, Vax Northwest has elected to focus on the midwifery community.

On January 10th, more than 20 researchers and practitioners from the fields of midwifery, naturopathy, allopathic medicine, public health, pediatrics, and anthropology, among others, came together at WithinReach to define a research agenda related to midwives (and other perinatal providers to a lesser extent). We had a rich and varied conversation that culminated in three research questions that Vax Northwest and our partners will address going forward:

    1) What are the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of midwives toward vaccines? (Are they advocates of vaccines?
    Do they want to be advocates of vaccines? What support is needed to become better vaccine advocates?)

    2) What are the characteristics of people who seek midwifery care? (Are they more likely to be vaccine hesitant? Are they dissatisfied with ‘traditional’ medicine?)

    3) What is the vaccination status of children in Washington, by the type of provider who attended their birth (midwife, physician, etc.)? Is there an association between provider type and immunization status?

“As an observer, it was a fascinating experience to listen to experts in various fields discuss current information and determine what new information is needed before deciding on specific research questions. Since the influence of the midwifery community on the decision to vaccinate children has not been studied, it will be exciting to see how these new research questions will help us better understand vaccine hesitancy” noted Cristina Cardenas, a WithinReach AmeriCorps service member, who participated in the meeting and has a special interest in immunizations.

Making policy, decisions, or interventions based off anecdotal evidence can be ineffective, or even worse, backfire. That’s why Vax Northwest has such a strong focus on creating a research foundation before we act. After several years of sharing the informative and well-received results of our previous research, we’re excited to be breaking new ground with this project and adding to the vaccine hesitancy research base. As always, we’ll do so in collaboration with the right partners with the goal of keeping all Washington families thriving and healthy.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_12.pdf

Tags: Canada   immunizations   midwife   midwifery care   research   vaccines   Vax Northwest   Washington state   

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