Vaccination against pertussis and influenza in pregnancy: a qualitative study of barriers and facilitators

Anna Maisa, Sarah Milligan, Alison Quinn, Denise Boulter, Jillian Johnston, Charlene Treanor, Declan Bradley

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Influenza and pertussis vaccination programmes have been in place for pregnant women in the UK since 2009 and 2012, respectively. In 2015, vaccine uptake rates were 55% for influenza and 63% for pertussis in Northern Ireland. We conducted a qualitative study with the aim of learning about the views of pregnant women and identifying potential barriers to vaccination in pregnancy.

Study design

Qualitative study using focus groups and in-depth interviews.


We conducted focus group discussions and interviews on vaccination in pregnancy using a discussion guide developed in consultation with stakeholders and service users. Pregnant women were recruited on-street. We performed inductive coding of transcripts and thematic analysis, using a phenomenological approach.


Sixteen pregnant women participated. We identified six key themes. Information and knowledge: Vaccinated and unvaccinated women demonstrated similar levels of knowledge and desire for information, preferring direct communication with healthcare professionals. The influence of others: Some vaccinated participants reported firm endorsements of vaccination by healthcare professionals including midwives, while some unvaccinated women recalled neutral or reticent staff. Acceptance and trust: Most women expressed trust of health professionals. Fear and distrust: Vaccinated individuals expressed concerns about side-effects more than unvaccinated women. A few unvaccinated women expressed distrust of vaccines and healthcare systems. Responsibility for the baby: Both groups prioritised protecting the baby but unvaccinated participants were concerned about vaccine-related harm. Accessing vaccination: Multiple appointments, lack of childcare, time off work and having responsibility to organise vaccination hindered some participants from getting immunised. Some women were willing to be vaccinated but did not recall being offered vaccination or were not sufficiently motivated to make arrangements themselves.


Healthcare professionals appear to have a vital influential role in pregnant women's decisions about vaccination. Involving midwives and improving convenience of vaccination access may increase uptake. Strategies to develop interventions should address the aforementioned barriers to meet the pregnant women's needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-117
Number of pages7
JournalPublic Health
Early online date11 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


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