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Pernille Jorgensen

Tailoring influenza vaccination programmes for health care workers in Serbia

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Frontline health care workers (HCWs) are more likely to be infected with influenza viruses compared with other working adults and are recommended to be vaccinated against influenza. Yet, in Serbia, seasonal influenza vaccination uptake among HCWs has declined in recent years.

In 2017, a project was set up to increase influenza vaccination rates among HCWs in Serbia during the 2017/2018 influenza season in two pilot sites in Belgrade with the involvement of a number of stakeholders; from health care staff to national policy- and decision-makers. 

The aim of the project was to gain in-depth insight into attitudes and behaviours of frontline health care staff towards influenza vaccination and, based on this, to develop tailored interventions that would encourage doctors and nurses to get their influenza vaccination.

The behavioural insights analysis highlighted that a large proportion of staff were unsure about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine and felt that they didn’t have time to arrange to get it.  However, staff also highlighted that they strongly felt that it was everyone’s duty to protect patients, friends and family from preventable diseases.

A range of communication tools and tactics was subsequently identified to help promote uptake of seasonal influenza vaccination in the 2017/2018 season, including improved access to vaccines, postcards and posters with clear simple messages on benefits of influenza vaccination and “myth busting”, and staff emails and bulletins to engage and update HCWs with latest news, data and campaign information.

Dr Verica Jovanovic, director of the Institute of Public Health of Serbia “Dr Milan Jovanovic Batut”, who is a key partner in the implementation of this project, stated that the results from this campaign will serve as a baseline for the future activities at the national level. Moreover, this project initiated the launch of another project that will identify drivers and barriers to the vaccination of children in 2018 using the same methodology.

The pilot project will be completed in December 2017 with evaluation in early 2018 to assess the impact, identify areas for improvement, and provide insight and learning for future activities.

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