An Australian collaboration led by researchers at Monash Health and Monash University has developed and validated a new tool, and used it to assess how people with chronic diseases, including cancer, feel about the COVID-19 vaccine.
The large study was conducted across 9 Australian health services during the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout in 2021, to understand COVID‐19 vaccine uptake, and disease‐related beliefs regarding vaccine importance, benefit, and safety.
Almost 3600 Australian cancer patients participated and completed the Disease Influenced COVID-19 Vaccine Acceptance Scale-6 (DIVAS-6). Around 1800 of these participants were actively receiving treatment at the time they completed the survey. People with diabetes and multiple sclerosis also participated.
The DIVAS-6 was developed by building on existing assessments exploring COVID-19 vaccine attitudes and opinions shared by collaborators from the University of Oxford, and included demographic, disease-related, and vaccination status questions to assess COVID-19 vaccine attitudes and concerns.
Of all study participants, 89.8% reported they had or would definitely/probably accept a COVID-19 vaccine, 5.8% were unsure, 4.3% stated they were unlikely to accept a vaccine.
Unvaccinated status was significantly associated with younger age, female sex, lower education and income levels, English as a second language, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, and residence in regional areas, although these were small associations.
The results, published this month in the journal Vaccines can be used to define the education needs of vulnerable population groups and to promote, maintain and in some cases, reinvigorate vaccination acceptance in these groups.
“The continuing importance of booster doses and the prevalence of vaccine misinformation, mean that understanding attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccinations is essential for health providers and policy makers”, said Chief Investigator and Professor and Director of Oncology at Monash Health and Monash University, Eva Segelov.
“Targeted interventions to address these concerns are needed at both an individual and population level, particularly consistent information messages”, said Professor Segelov.
The study team included Monash University Medicine senior research fellow Dr Lisa Grech, Monash Health medical oncologist Dr Daphne Day, and Monash Health Oncology fellows Dr Mike Nguyen and Dr Nathan Bain.
The study team are grateful for the contributions from consumer advisor Ms Janne Williams, participating patients and the CANVACCS, DIABVACCS, and MSVACCS investigators* at Monash Health, Bendigo Health, Latrobe Regional Hospital, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, Icon Cancer Centre Hobart, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, Campbelltown Hospital, Border Medical Oncology, and Dr David Hoffman.
*CANVACCS, CANcer patients’ perspectives on coronavirus VACCination Survey; DIABVACCS, DIABetes patients’ perspectives on coronavirus VACCination Survey; MSVACCS, Multiple Sclerosis patients’ perspectives on coronavirus VACCination Survey.