In March 2013, the WMA administered a survey of its member associations on the perceptions of barriers and opportunities to increasing immunization rates against influenza among physicians globally. The survey results helped WMA plan a campaign that reflected the needs of their members. The campaign was officially launched on the first day of the World Health Organization’s Immunization Week, April 20th.
WMA was very pleased to learn that more than half of the respondents (54.3%) were already involved in raising awareness or organizing activities on influenza immunization, and 42.2% considered influenza immunization a high priority. Sixty three percent of the respondents even offered seasonal flu vaccines to their staff. It was also encouraging to learn that 84.4% of the countries that the responding associations represented had specific recommendations/guidelines related to influenza immunization.
However, only 20% stated that influenza immunization is fully reimbursed in their respective countries and 44.4% said that the cost was partially covered, which means there is a need for more advocacy work to convince policy-makers of the importance of making the influenza vaccines widely accessible. Indeed, 75.5% of survey respondents asked for advocacy toolkits with facts and figures, along with web-based resources (67.6%) and draft letters to governments (13.5%) to put the issue high on their agendas.
However, the results of this survey should be interpreted with caution. Less than half (46%) of the members who received a questionnaire completed the survey, and a responder bias is also likely. Even in this group, only 42.2% said that influenza immunization was a high priority in their organizations, and the need for more advocacy and education was widely acknowledged. The respondents stressed the need for global statistics on morbidity, mortality and vaccination coverage. They also requested materials that would demonstrate seasonal variations of the disease and information about the virus “in a more understandable way.” Some stressed the importance of emphasis on the impact of globalization on the spread of virus and the universal vulnerability of the populations to influenza.