Study: Physician consultation leads to pandemic vaccination

A look at data from the swine flu pandemic shows that physicians who talk vaccination with their doctor often get the shot.

A new study of data from the last pandemic to hit the U.S. before COVID-19 shows that doctor-patient discussions can build trust and more positive attitudes toward vaccination.

According to a news release, researchers from Washington State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered the correlation by studying the responses of patients surveyed about the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine. They found that attitudes not only improved after physician consultations, but that patient actually received the vaccine.

"A vaccine during a pandemic is definitely different from others, like the flu vaccine, which people already know about," Porismita Borah, an associate professor in WSU's Murrow College of Communication and lead author on the study, says in the release. "During a pandemic, it is a new vaccine for everybody. People may have more hesitancy and may be more worried about side effects. The doctor's office is one of the best sources of information for patients who have questions."

The authors analyzed responses from 19,000 people on their attitudes toward doctors, discussing vaccines with them, and toward getting vaccinated. They found a correlation between a willingness to discuss the vaccine with a doctor and receiving the shot, the release says.

While the authors note physicians often feel they can’t ethically tell patients to take a vaccine, they recommend that doctors act as a resource to help answer questions enabling their patients to make better decisions. But, there is no need for physicians to wait for patients to come to them.

"Doctors could voluntarily reach out to patients, even by email, to let them know what the COVID-19 vaccine means," Borah says. "They can answer questions like how was the vaccine made? What should patients expect? Why are there two doses? I think there might be many questions people have which can be easily answered by primary care physicians who are usually well trusted by the general public."