Optimising informed consent in school-based adolescent vaccination programmes in England: A multiple methods analysis

Optimising informed consent in school-based adolescent vaccination programmes in England: A multiple methods analysis
Tracey Chantler, Louise Letley, Pauline Paterson, Joanne Yarwood, Vanessa Saliba, Sandra Mounier-Jack
Vaccine, 24 July 2019
Open Access
The process of obtaining informed consent for school-based adolescent immunisation provides an opportunity to engage families. However, the fact that parental consent needs to be obtained remotely adds complexity to the process and can have a detrimental effect on vaccine uptake. We conducted a multiple methods analysis to examine the practice of obtaining informed consent in adolescent immunisation programmes. This involved a thematic analysis of consent related data from 39 interviews with immunisation managers and providers collected as part of a 2017 service evaluation of the English adolescent girls’ HPV vaccine programme and a descriptive statistical analysis of data from questions related to consent included in a 2017 survey of parents’ and adolescents’ attitudes to adolescent vaccination. The findings indicated that the non-return of consent forms was a significant logistical challenge for immunisation teams, and some were piloting opt-out consent mechanisms, increasing the proportion of adolescents consenting for their own immunisations, and introducing electronic consent. Communicating vaccine related information to parents and schools and managing uncertainties about obtaining adolescent self-consent for vaccination were the main practical challenges encountered. Survey data showed that parents and adolescents generally agreed on vaccine decisions although only 32% of parents discussed vaccination with their teenager. Parental awareness about the option for adolescents to self-consent for vaccination was limited and adolescents favoured leaving the decision-making to parents. From the interviews and variability of consent forms it was evident that health professionals were not always clear about the best way to manage the consent process. Some were also unfamiliar with self-consent processes and lacked confidence in assessing for ‘Gillick competency’. Developing pathways and related interventions to improve the logistics and practice of consent in school-based adolescent immunisation programmes could help improve uptake.

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