Background: Influenza infection during pregnancy causes significant morbidity and mortality. Immunisation against influenza is recommended during pregnancy in several countries however, there are limited data on vaccine uptake, and the determinants of vaccination, in pregnant Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Islander women. This study aimed to collect pilot data on vaccine uptake and attitudes towards, and perceptions of, maternal influenza vaccination in this population in order to inform the development of larger studies.
Methods: A mixed-methods study comprised of a cross-sectional survey and yarning circles (focus groups) amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women attending two primary health care services. The women were between 28 weeks gestation and less than 16 weeks post-birth. These data were supplemented by data collected in an ongoing national Australian study of maternal influenza vaccination. Aboriginal research officers collected community data and data from the yarning circles which were based on a narrative enquiry framework. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse quantitative data and thematic analyses were applied to qualitative data.
Results: Quantitative data were available for 53 women and seven of these women participated in the yarning circles. The proportion of women who reported receipt of an influenza vaccine during their pregnancy was 9/53. Less than half of the participants (21/53) reported they had been offered the vaccine in pregnancy. Forty-three percent reported they would get a vaccine if they became pregnant again. Qualitative data suggested perceived benefits to themselves and their infants were important factors in the decision to be vaccinated but there was insufficient information available to women to make that choice.
Conclusions: The rates of influenza immunisation may continue to remain low for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander women during pregnancy. Access to services and recommendations by a health care worker may be factors in the lower rates. Our findings support the need for larger studies directed at monitoring and understanding the determinants of maternal influenza vaccine uptake during pregnancy in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. This research will best be achieved using methods that account for the social and cultural contexts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia.