Attitudes of Dutch general practitioners towards vaccinating the elderly: less is more?

Renske Eilers, Paul F M Krabbe, Hester E de Melker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: In many European countries, vaccinations are offered to the elderly. Expanding the programme to include routine vaccination against pneumococcal disease, herpes zoster, and pertussis, for example, could reduce disease burden amongst the growing population of persons aged 50 years and older. Since most countries involve general practitioners (GPs) in the programmes, the potential success of such new vaccinations depends on the attitude of GPs towards these vaccinations. This qualitative study explores Dutch GPs' attitudes regarding vaccination in general, and their attitudes regarding the incorporation of additional vaccines in the current Dutch influenza vaccination programme.

METHODS: Interviews were held with ten Dutch GPs (five men and five women) that worked either in an academic hospital, in a practice based in a health center, or in individual practice. All interviews were recorded with a digital voice recorder and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were analysed according to thematic analysis.

RESULTS: GPs perceived prevention as part as their job and believed vaccination to be effective for preventing infectious diseases. However, influenza vaccination was not always perceived as effective. Doubts regarding the usefulness of additional vaccinations were identified. If additional vaccines would be offered, this should be based on scientific evidence and the severity of the infectious disease. Selection of patients for vaccination should not be based solely on age, but more on risk factors. The GP should be the central point of contact for new vaccination campaigns; however, high workload was seen as a concern. Several GPs questioned their ability to refuse to distribute the vaccinations.

CONCLUSIONS: A positive attitude towards implementing additional vaccinations is not apparent. Achieving the most health benefits seems to be the most important consideration of Dutch GPs regarding vaccinating older adults. Questions regarding the usefulness of vaccinating older adults should be taken into consideration. More research is necessary to confirm the results among a wider range of Dutch GPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158
JournalBMC Family Practice
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • aged
  • attitude of health personnel
  • evidence-based medicine
  • female
  • general practitioners/psychology
  • health services for the aged
  • humans
  • influenza vaccines/therapeutic use
  • interviews as topic
  • male
  • Netherlands
  • qualitative research
  • vaccination/psychology


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