Vaccine hesitancy among school staff in Switzerland (PERSPECTIVES): A mixed-methods study

Suggs, Suzanne and Caiata Zufferey, Maria and Fadda, Marta and Bernegger, Guenda and Falvo, Ilaria and Bezani, Kleona (2022) Vaccine hesitancy among school staff in Switzerland (PERSPECTIVES): A mixed-methods study. Project Report UNSPECIFIED

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Children are at lower risk of developing severe COVID-19 than adolescents and adults, but they do get COVID-19 and do transmit it to others. To reduce the spread of the infection during periods of high infection rates, schools closed and moved to remote learning in many countries and municipalities around the world. However, closing schools means huge costs not only on children and families but also on society. For this reason, at the time this project started, Switzerland maintained the position that schools should be prioritized to remain open, with teachers of all ages being a top priority for COVID-19 vaccination. Until children are vaccinated at sufficient levels, it is even more important that school staff are vaccinated in order to protect themselves from infection and to reduce the risk of infecting children and their families. There are little data regarding vaccine acceptance among teachers and school staff in Switzerland, and even less about reasons for or against vaccination. This study, co-funded by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland SUPSI, used a mixed-methods approach to measure and explore COVID-19 vaccine uptake, intention to get vaccinated, reasons for uptake, and factors associated with intention to vaccinate among a sample of individuals working in public and private nurseries, kindergartens, primary schools, and after-schools across German-, French-, and Italian-speaking Switzerland. Data were collected from November 2021-March 2022. Quantitative data showed that most participants were in favour of vaccination (66.5%) and had been (fully or partly) vaccinated against COVID-19 (76.4%). Of the approximately 100 participants who did not receive any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 56% reported not to be eligible and the majority (92.9%) indicated they were very unlikely to get vaccinated in the future. Seven unvaccinated participants reported to be likely to get vaccinated. Participants against the vaccination were significantly more likely to report a preference for waiting before being vaccinated, fear of possible side effects, preference for natural immunity or natural/traditional remedies or other means to protect themselves, and a belief that vaccines have developed too quickly. The analysis of the qualitative data allowed us to (1) understand the context of the vaccination decision, characterized by a strong normative ambivalence, (2) understand the complexity of the impact of COVID-19 and related measures on working life, (3) map the variety of the reasons behind the vaccination decision and (4) describe the tensions experienced by participants in relation to their vaccination decision. This report presents the results of this project together with recommendations to improve current strategies to strengthen confidence in the COVID-19 vaccination among staff working in contact with children, particularly in relation to communication from public health institutions and within schools.

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