Vaccine hesitancy is an emerging phenomenon particularly in industrialized nations. It has led to repeated epidemic outbreaks of otherwise vaccine-preventable, infectious diseases. Compared to other countries very low rates of influenza and measles vaccination rates have been reported in Austria.
We performed a single-center cross-sectional, questionnaire-based survey. A total of 350 adult patients attending our emergency room participated in this survey. We assessed knowledge and attitudes towards vaccination and the associated infectious diseases.
Out of 350 participants 40 (11.4 %) declared that they deliberately refused vaccinations. Most common reasons for non-vaccination were fear of adverse effects (35.9 %), doubt of effectiveness of vaccines (35.9 %) and distrust towards the pharmaceutical industry (23.1 %). Of all 350 participants only 148 (42.3 %) thought themselves to be sufficiently informed about national vaccination recommendations as stated in the Austrian National Vaccination Program (ANVP). General practitioners (GP) were the primary source of healthcare-related information for 256 (73.1 %) participants. Furthermore, GPs as well as hospital-based physicians achieved the highest level of trust in this study population.
The results of our study underline the necessity of comprehensive informational campaigns on the merits of vaccination. A lack of knowledge about the benefits of vaccination, uncertainty and unfounded fears seem to prevent the achievement of recommended vaccination rates. Family GPs enjoyed the highest levels of trust in our study population. We believe that additional information communicated by GPs could help boost the low vaccination rates. This study underlines the important role of primary care practitioners in informing patients about vaccines and healthcare topics.