Montejo: Lack of understanding is major barrier to vaccination

Leigh Montejo, a National Public Health Service Corps scholar, said in a Thursday editorial that a lack of education and understanding of vaccination is a major barrier that must be overcome in public health.

Montejo said that patients tend not to understand the concept of immunization. In her experience, patients ask if the vaccine will make them sick and wonder why they need to get one multiple years in a row, the Clinical Advisor reports.

"Many think the shot will give them influenza, and likewise cannot comprehend the need for annual immunization," Montejo said, according to the Clinical Advisor. "The idea at the heart of vaccination - creating herd immunity so there are fewer vectors for disease transmission - is often lost to patients."

Other barriers to immunization include cost, time constraints and a medical culture of disease management rather then prevention.

Montejo suggested that medical practitioners take several steps to inform patients about the importance of immunization - doctors can provide patients with educational handouts on immunization at registration, medical assistants can ask patients if they would like to be immunized during initial intake and assistants can question patients regarding the reasons for declining, the Clinical Advisor reports.

"The provider can then understand the issues prior to the visit, enabling tailored discussions that specifically address the patient's rationale for declining," Montejo said, according to the Clinical Advisor. "Remember that eliminating barriers to care is key, not only in disease management, but especially for disease prevention."