A multi-country survey revealed 50% of meningitis vaccination appointments were delayed or canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the need for “urgent action” to maintain routine vaccination levels among children, according to survey authors.
The COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on recommended pediatric vaccination rates due to several factors such as lockdown regulations and fear of infection. According to a multi-country survey conducted by Ipsos Healthcare, 50% of scheduled meningitis vaccination appointments were canceled or delayed amid the pandemic.
Permanent disabilities and death can result from Invasive meningococcal disease (IMD). IMDs caused by Neisseria meningitidis can be prevented with a meningitis vaccine. With declining vaccination rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, results from the survey demonstrate the importance of continuing vaccinations against infectious diseases during a pandemic.
The survey, conducted between January 19, 2021, and February 16, 2021, featured 4962 parents (53.9% identified as female) of children aged 0 to 4 years from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, and Australia, andparents of adolescents aged 11 to 18 years in the United States. Differing vaccination schedules resulted indifferent age ranges for the United States. All parents participating in the survey were aged at least 18 years and were either the sole or joint decision-makers for their children.
The survey demonstrated that 83% of parents felt it was important that their children continue to receive recommended vaccines, including meningitis vaccinations, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Half of the appointments scheduled for meningitis vaccination were canceled or delayed during the pandemic. Further, 21% of parents did not intend to reschedule these appointments.
The delay or cancelation percentage for the meningitis vaccine matched overall vaccination rates for those surveyed that were altered by the COVID-19 pandemic during this timeframe. A healthcare appointment was delayed or canceled due to the pandemic in nearly half of all parents surveyed.
During the pandemic, more than 1 in 2 parents participating in the survey had no concerns for vaccination against meningitis in that timeframe. Results also demonstrated that half of parents worried about social distancing and an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 for their children.
The pandemic made several parents hesitant regarding vaccines overall. The statement, “following the COVID-19 pandemic I am now less confident with the safety of vaccines in general,” resulted in 16% of parents strongly agreeing and 18% slightly agreeing.
The authors believe this could lead to further vaccine hesitancy following the pandemic, creating more challenges regarding vaccine coverage worldwide. “A resurgence in vaccine-preventable infections that had been eliminated or controlled, such as measles, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, and polio, and that result in significant morbidity and mortality in children, is a real danger,” authors wrote.
According to the authors of the study, “urgent action is required to maintain vaccination rates and continue reducing the incidence of vaccine-preventable infections and diseases.” This conclusion comes after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted various routine childhood immunization practices in multiple countries.
Tan LLJ, Safadi MAP, Horn M, et al. Pandemic’s influence on parents’ attitudes and behaviors toward meningococcal vaccination. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics. 2023;19(1):2179840. doi:10.1080/21645515.2023.2179840