New study to assess attitudes towards routine chickenpox vaccination

A Keele University psychologist and undergraduate student are exploring the attitudes of parents and caregivers towards the introduction of the chickenpox vaccination into the routine immunisation schedule for children, and whether they would support such a measure.

The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI) makes policy recommendations to the UK government and is currently reviewing whether the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine should be added to the existing childhood vaccination schedule, and this Keele research will assess how much parents and caregivers know about chickenpox, as well as their attitudes towards the potential introduction of the routine chickenpox vaccination.

The research will also look at attitudes towards things like the timing of the injection, barriers that might prevent people getting the vaccine, and how the vaccine might be delivered to children, for example by administering it alongside other vaccinations.

Dr Sue Sherman, and undergraduate student Nicola Lingley-Heath, are carrying out this research after a successful bid in the British Psychological Society’s Undergraduate Research Assistantship scheme 2021. Nicola will have a unique opportunity to work on a live health policy issue and to see a research project through from design through to dissemination.

Chickenpox is common in the UK with more than 75% of parents reporting it in children under five. While chickenpox is usually a mild illness, bacterial infections, pneumonia, and neurological complications can occur. Currently, children are offered vaccinations against 14 other infections before school age.

The research will produce a policy briefing document with the potential for the findings to inform JCVI decision making, as well as the communications strategies of local authorities.

Dr Sue Sherman, Reader in Psychology, said: "I am delighted that Nicola and I have been awarded this funding. It is an excellent opportunity for Nicola to work on a live research project which will inform our understanding of parental attitudes towards varicella vaccination, and I look forward to working with her on it."

Nicola said: “I am feeling very fortunate to have been selected to work with Sue on such an important topic, which has the potential to result in informing live health policy and public health. I am excited to be working with Sue and to have the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge on how to conduct a project in full, which will ultimately aid my progression into my third year of study and thereafter.”