‘It’s worth the shot’: new resource to support COVID vaccination

Anna Samecki

22/03/2022 4:54:21 PM

GPs, practice nurses and community pharmacists have a new shared decision-making resource to help promote COVID-19 vaccinations.

A GP speaking to a patient.
New resource aims to support primary care conversations with vaccine-hesitant patients.

For GP Dr Paresh Dawda, vaccine hesitancy should not be viewed as a ‘polar issue’, where patients are divided into camps of those who want the vaccine, and those who don’t.
‘There are patients and consumers out there who really just want to be more informed,’ he told newsGP.
‘It’s not just about getting information, it’s also about how they put that information into the context of their own perspectives, their own concerns, and their own values; and being able to talk through that with someone they trust.’
And while vaccine hesitancy has reduced since it peaked in the midst of the vaccine rollout last year, Australia is not out of the woods yet with regard to COVID-19.
Infection rates have once again started to rise with the emergence of the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron, which was first detected in Australia in January, while there is also uncertainty around what winter will bring.
And even though the majority of Australians have taken up COVID-19 vaccination enthusiastically, varying degrees of booster uptake exist across Australia, with lower rates among certain vulnerable populations.
Addressing gaps in vaccination is no easy feat, but shared decision-making is a good place to start according to the Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF).
That is why, in collaboration with public health experts and with funding from the Department of Health, CHF has released a suite of new resources called It’s worth the shot’.
Professor Mark Morgan, Chair of RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care, told newsGP the resources are ‘very timely’ and ‘well put together’.
‘We need to move away from a rules-based approach to one that involves people making genuine decisions for themselves with the right information,’ he said.
‘This is where the discussion cards can help explore people’s opinions, where they’re up to in their thinking process, and provide an opportunity for them to engage in a brief intervention to better understand the potential benefits of vaccination; and make that happen if they’re willing to do so.’
He says the resources came about from the recognition that ‘people can have perfectly valid concerns’, or a ‘lack of knowledge or sometimes misinformation’ that fuels anxiety about the potential harms of vaccination.
The resource package is based on a growing body of evidence that shows mutual trust, rapport, and community cohesion on complex issues such as vaccination, are best built through a ‘sharing and caring’ rather than ‘telling and selling’ approach.
Information contained within the package is designed to support vaccine providers in having meaningful conversations with their patients who are vaccine-hesitant or haven’t had their booster yet, and in delivering brief interventions.
The free online training package includes training videos, role-plays and tip sheets which are individualised for GPs, practice nurses and pharmacists.
There are also Benefits and Decision cards for use in consultations.
Dr Dawda narrates the training videos and said the fact that the resources have been developed by a consumer organisation is important, as they were created ‘by consumers, for consumers’, with their concerns in mind.
‘These resources provide a framework for [addressing people’s concerns] in the form of simple brief interventions and shared decision-making,’ he said.
And while the concept of brief interventions and shared decision-making is not new, it has been used successfully in other clinicals areas such as smoking cessation – a point that Professor Morgan says needs to be emphasised.
‘Brief interventions and shared decision making are standard skills that GPs use all the time,’ he said.
‘Learning more about them and constantly improving that skill set is going to help us across the whole breadth of our work.’
All available resources can be found on the Consumer Health Forum’s website.
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