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In 2022, a case of paralysis was reported in an unvaccinated adult in Rockland County (RC), New York. Genetically linked detections of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (VDPV2) were reported in multiple New York counties, England, Israel, and Canada. The aims of this qualitative study were to: i) review immediate public health responses in New York to assess the challenges in addressing gaps in vaccination coverage; ii) inform a longer-term strategy to improving vaccination coverage in under-vaccinated communities, and iii) collect data to support comparative evaluations of transnational poliovirus outbreaks. Twenty-three semi-structured interviews were conducted with public health professionals, healthcare professionals, and community partners. Results indicate that i) addressing suboptimal vaccination coverage in RC remains a significant challenge after recent disease outbreaks; ii) the poliovirus outbreak was not unexpected and effort should be invested to engage mothers, the key decision-makers on childhood vaccination; iii) healthcare providers (especially paediatricians) received technical support during the outbreak, and may require resources and guidance to effectively contribute to longer-term vaccine engagement strategies; vi) data systems strengthening is required to help track under-vaccinated children. Public health departments should prioritize long-term investments in appropriate communication strategies, countering misinformation, and promoting the importance of the routine immunization schedule.
Since 2016, the European Region has experienced large-scale measles outbreaks. Several measles outbreaks in England during 2017/18 specifically affected Romanian and Romanian Roma communities. In this qualitative interview study, we looked at the effectiveness of outbreak responses and efforts to promote vaccination uptake amongst these underserved communities in three English cities: Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 33 providers involved in vaccination delivery and outbreak management in these cities. Interviews were analysed thematically and factors that influenced the effectiveness of responses were categorised into five themes: (1) the ability to identify the communities, (2) provider knowledge and understanding of the communities, (3) the co-ordination of response efforts and partnership working, (4) links to communities and approaches to community engagement and (5) resource constraints. We found that effective partnership working and community engagement were key to the prevention and management of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks in the communities. Effective engagement was found to be compromised by cuts to public health spending and services for underserved communities. To increase uptake in under-vaccinated communities, local knowledge and engagement are vital to build trust and relationships. Local partners must work proactively to identify, understand and build connections with communities.
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