Study finds high RSV awareness with parents open to future immunisation
A Telethon Kids Institute study designed to gauge community awareness of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has found parents and parents-to-be are highly aware of the virus and are open to immunisation to tackle it.
RSV is a common respiratory infection affecting babies that can lead to bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
The virus is responsible for 3.6 million infant hospitalisations and 100,000 deaths globally, sparking a push for vaccines and antibody treatments that are now just around the corner.
An antibody treatment called Nirsevimab – which protects babies for up to five months during peak RSV season – was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) in December last year and is expected to be rolled out in Australia over the next year.
In a study published recently in the journal Acta Paediatrica, researchers sought to gauge public awareness and attitudes towards future immunisations for babies.
Of the 1,992 participants in the national online survey, most aged 25-39 years, 89.6 per cent of current parents and 78.7 per cent of pregnant and planning parents knew about RSV.
But despite high awareness of the virus itself, the study showed low awareness of associated conditions and disease severity, suggesting a need for targeted education campaigns to fill the knowledge gap.
Of the 89.6 per cent of current parents with high RSV awareness, only 64.2 per cent were aware of the link with pneumonia. Only 50 per cent of soon-to-be parents were aware of the link.
Lead author Charlie Holland, from the Wesfarmers Centre of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases based at Telethon Kids Institute, said the findings signaled the need to further raise awareness about RSV before any immunisation rollout.
“With RSV immunisation soon available in Australia, population data are essential to help guide and inform future immunisation and educational programs so we can ensure we are hitting the right targets,” Ms. Holland said.
With high awareness and high openness to immunisation, yet lower awareness of RSV complications and severity, there is scope to build an awareness-raising educational campaign to ensure parents are equipped with the right information to help make informed decisions about RSV immunisation.
Senior author Associate Professor Hannah Moore, from the Wesfarmers Center of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Telethon Kids Institute and Curtin University’s School of Population Health, said the highest awareness of RSV was found in Australian-born parents living in the eastern states with a university education – indicating that those planning pregnancy would be an ideal group to target for educational campaigns.
“We can now expand the study sample to collect data from other demographics to continue to create more effective educational campaigns to coincide with the rollout of the newly approved antibody treatment,” Associate Professor Moore said.
“Scope now exists to replicate the research model to examine attitudes in regional and rural areas and lower-socio economic groups.”
The journal article Parental awareness and attitudes towards prevention of respiratory syncytial virus in infants and young children in Australia is available here.