People develop trust towards vaccines if they are constantly in touch with their doctors, according to a study that was conducted on the basis of the evidence gathered during the “swine flu” epidemic in the US.
For the study, published in the journal Health Communication, researchers from Washington State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison surveyed patients about the vaccine for the H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu.
The authors found that doctor-patient communication helped build trust in physicians, which led to more positive attitudes toward the H1N1 vaccine. It correlated to people actually getting inoculated. However, this study specifically focuses on that role during a pandemic.
“A vaccine during a pandemic is definitely different from others, like the flu vaccine, which people already know about,” said lead author Porismita Borah, an associate professor in WSU’s Murrow College of Communication.
Borah added: “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 researchers analysed survey responses from over 19,000 people nationwide on their attitudes toward doctors and their willingness to discuss vaccines with their physicians. They also analysed their willingness to get vaccinations and, ultimately, whether or not they got the H1N1 vaccine.
They found that the willingness to talk to doctors about the issue correlated with increased trust and receiving the vaccination.
The authors noted that doctors often feel that they cannot ethically tell patients to take a certain vaccine. Instead, they recommend physicians simply act as a resource, helping answer questions so patients can make better-informed decisions. They do not, however, need to wait until patients come to them, the authors wrote.
“Doctors could voluntarily reach out to patients, even by e-mail, to let them know what the Covid-19 vaccine means,” said Borah.
She further suggested: “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.”