Education of health workers on vaccine safety and contraindications against vaccination in 7 countries
WHO/Europe conducted a training of trainers on vaccine safety and contraindications against vaccination on 24–26 May 2016 for national immunization programme managers and leading clinicians from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The training, conducted in Vienna, Austria, aimed to prepare confident key trainers to educate frontline medical workers on vaccine safety and contraindication in order to reduce failures to comply with the childhood immunization schedule due to false contraindications.
Faculty of the University Clinical Hospital of Santiago de Compostela, Spain led the training: Professor Federico Martinón-Torres, Head of Translational Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases, and Dr Irene Rivero, Pediatric Consultant. Dr Peter Zuber, Head of Global Vaccine Safety Group at WHO headquarters; Professor Colin Kennedy, Consultant Paediatric Neurologist, University of Southampton, United Kingdom; and Ms Katrine Habersaat, Technical Officer at WHO/Europe; provided information about additional training materials available for medical doctors, including WHO vaccine pre-qualification, monitoring, investigation and communication of adverse-events following immunization, and neurology in infancy.
As expressed in the post-training evaluation, participants found the training useful and relevant, and appreciated the trainers' high level of professionalism and devotion. Many plan to use the training package to educate medical workers in their countries.
The training materials will be finalized and posted on the WHO/Europe website in the coming months. Many participants asked for technical support in conducting follow-up trainings for health care professionals in their countries. As a starting point, WHO/Europe is investigating opportunities to provide this support in in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Georgia. In addition, subregional trainings are planned to be conducted in Armenia and Azerbaijan this year.
Evaluations following the introduction of new vaccines conducted in many countries of WHO European Region have revealed that missed opportunities to vaccinate infants due to false contraindications are an important reason for delayed vaccination or non-vaccination of infants. General practitioners and other health care professionals postpone vaccination of infants with mild acute and chronic diseases because they incorrectly believe that vaccination will worsen the disease progression and prognosis. They are also concerned that infants with chronic diseases are more likely to develop adverse events following immunization.
To address this challenge WHO/Europe, in collaboration with a research team from University of Santiago de Compostela led by Professor Martinón-Torres, developed training materials on vaccine safety and contraindications against vaccination. The targeted audience is medical doctors who recommend vaccination to infants or influence parents' decision to vaccinate their children.
The training materials consist of a series of presentations, case studies, videos as well as pre- and post-training evaluation forms. These are accompanied by a training manual that will facilitate trainings in countries. The main purpose of the training is to provide information and evidence to increase medical doctors' confidence in vaccines and improve their understanding of the benefits and risks of vaccination. The training materials include a review of recommendations on contraindications and precautions, and information about immunization in special situations.
In 2014–2015, the training materials were used to conduct trainings of leading clinicians and medical academia in Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Republic of Moldova. The trained clinicians in the Republic of Moldova used these materials to conduct follow-up trainings for frontline medical doctors.
After the training methodology and materials were presented at a regional meeting in 2015, many national immunization programme managers expressed interest in conducting similar trainings in their countries, which led to the May 2016 training.