Decision aid launched for those with COVID-19 vaccine concerns

Jolyon Attwooll

9/12/2021 11:59:32 AM

Prominent public health experts have collaborated to develop an online tool backed by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.

Female doctor consulting
It is hoped the decision aid will help those with significant concerns. (Image: Getty Images)

A new online decision aid has been launched to help people unsure about COVID-19 vaccination make an informed decision.
Hosted on the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) website, it has backing from a group of prominent public health experts who hope the tool will answer questions from those with significant vaccine concerns.
The web-based aid takes people through the evidence for both the virus and vaccinations, then compares the risks and benefits.
It also allows those going through the process to check their own personal profile, and weigh up the most important issues for them before reaching a decision.
Professor Lyndal Trevena, who was previously the co-leader of the Discipline of General Practice at the University of Sydney and remains a practising GP, has been involved in the project.
She believes the objective and in-depth approach of the aid make sense at a time when most people unsure about vaccination are looking for trustworthy sources.
‘We’ve got [a] small percentage of people now who probably do have a need for the higher level [of] information,’ Professor Trevena told newsGP.
‘They’re really wanting to go through things with a fine toothcomb. That’s why I think the timing of this more detailed online tool really suits a lot of those people’s needs.
‘There are links to the original papers and the research. That’s what some people really need.’
Professor Trevena said the vaccine rollout has reached a stage in most parts of the country where GPs are now trying to reach people who have significant concerns about getting vaccinated.
‘It’s really hard for GPs to have the time to go through all of that and to have all of that information at your fingertips.
‘So that’s where this new detailed web-based decision aid is potentially quite good.
‘It is deliberately designed to be balanced, that there’s no right or wrong answer, [that] these are the facts in a very objective way. We’re not trying to hide anything or persuade them or twist their arm.
‘That often works very well with people who do have quite significant concerns. Quite rightly, we are respecting their autonomy.’
The development of the web-based tool was led by the Dr Jane Frawley, a senior lecturer in Public Health at the University of Technology Sydney.
Other tools available
While the tool may not always be practicable for use during a consultation, Professor Trevena believes it is a valuable addition to a suite of tools available to those involved in the vaccination process.

Other resources she has found useful in general practice include a decision aid she helped put together when public concerns about AstraZeneca were at their highest.
Another, developed in partnership with NSW Health’s Agency for Clinical Innovation, is aimed at facilitating shared decision-making between health practitioners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities.
‘You have to have the right tool for the job at hand,’ Professor Trevena said.
‘There’s no one particular format of patient decision aid that is necessarily the best, it’s up to the GP to work out their own workflow and the context of these sorts of conversations.’
According to the latest figures, there are now more than 18.1 million people who have been fully vaccinated in Australia so far, which represents more than 88% of all people aged over 16. Around 93% have had at least one dose, according to Department of Health statistics.
A vaccine hesitancy tracker produced by the University of Melbourne has suggested a consistent reduction in the number of people reluctant to receive a vaccination over the past six months.
Overall hesitancy across the country now stands at 6.4% according to the data gathered by researchers at the university. Only 3.9% of respondents – the lowest yet – said they are unwilling to have a vaccination, while 2.5% remain unsure.

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