Public preferences for vaccination and antiviral medicines under different pandemic flu outbreak scenarios

Helena Rubinstein, Afrodita Marcu, Lucy Yardley, Susan Michie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: During the 2009-2010 A(H1N1) pandemic, many people did not seek care quickly enough, failed to take a full course of antivirals despite being authorised to receive them, and were not vaccinated. Understanding facilitators and barriers to the uptake of vaccination and antiviral medicines will help inform campaigns in future pandemic influenza outbreaks. Increasing uptake of vaccines and antiviral medicines may need to address a range of drivers of behaviour. The aim was to identify facilitators of and barriers to being vaccinated and taking antiviral medicines in uncertain and severe pandemic influenza scenarios using a theoretical model of behaviour change, COM-B.

METHODS: Focus groups and interviews with 71 members of the public in England who varied in their at-risk status. Participants responded to uncertain and severe scenarios, and to messages giving advice on vaccination and antiviral medicines. Data were thematically analysed using the theoretical framework provided by the COM-B model.

RESULTS: Influences on uptake of vaccines and antiviral medicines - capabilities, motivations and opportunities - are part of an inter-related behavioural system and different components influenced each other. An identity of being healthy and immune from infection was invoked to explain feelings of invulnerability and hence a reduced need to be vaccinated, especially during an uncertain scenario. The identity of being a 'healthy person' also included beliefs about avoiding medicine and allowing the body to fight disease 'naturally'. This was given as a reason for using alternative precautionary behaviours to vaccination. This identity could be held by those not at-risk and by those who were clinically at-risk.

CONCLUSIONS: Promoters and barriers to being vaccinated and taking antiviral medicines are multi-dimensional and communications to promote uptake are likely to be most effective if they address several components of behaviour. The benefit of using the COM-B model is that it is at the core of an approach that can identify effective strategies for behaviour change and communications for the future. Identity beliefs were salient for decisions about vaccination. Communications should confront identity beliefs about being a 'healthy person' who is immune from infection by addressing how vaccination can boost wellbeing and immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2015


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents/therapeutic use
  • England/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines/therapeutic use
  • Influenza, Human/prevention & control
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics/prevention & control
  • Patient Preference/psychology
  • Young Adult


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