Why are vaccines important for physicians and medical students?

By Regina Célia de Menezes Succi, Faculdade São Leopoldo Mandic, Professor of Medicine Course, Campinas, SP, Brazil

Despite the existence of a reliable national vaccine program, 17% of medical students do not recognize that vaccines protect against life-threatening diseases. Additionally, 64.5% of these students and 38.5% of doctors are not familiar with the vaccines that make up the official vaccine schedule.

This was one of the conclusions made by researchers at the São Leopoldo Mandic School in Campinas, São Paulo. They applied questionnaires with open and closed-ended questions to a sample of 92 subjects, who were selected at a private medical school in Campinas. The sample was divided into two groups: group 1, with 53 medical students (first through fourth year students); and group 2, with 39 doctors, some of whom were also professors, from different specialties. The study entitled “Perceptions on the importance of vaccination and vaccine refusal in a medical school” was published in the Revista Paulista de Pediatria (Vol. 37, No. 1).

The data collected from the questionnaire, which was answered by the participants in the sample, were tabulated in Excel and analyzed statistically. All of the students and 94.9% of the physicians reported having an immunization record, and most said they remembered their last vaccine. However, even though they are at-risk for catching the flu, 15.4% of the physicians and 47.2% of the students did not receive the flu vaccine in 2015 due to “lack of interest” and “fear of adverse events”.

All of the physicians and 83 percent of the students agreed with the statement that “vaccines protect against life-threatening diseases,” and most said that “the benefits of vaccines are far more important than potential adverse events.” In Brazil, the National Immunization Program (Programa Nacional de Imunizações – PNI) was considered to be efficient and reliable according to 88.7% of the students and 92.3% of the physicians. However, most of the students and 38.5% of the doctors were unaware of the number of infectious diseases that can be avoided with the help of PNI vaccines.

The study also showed that while most physicians and students recognize that vaccinated individuals can protect others from infectious diseases, 34% of the students did not recognize the importance of herd immunity in controlling infectious diseases.

The researchers recognize that the study had a significant limitation with regard to sample size and, therefore, they cannot generalize the findings. But they concluded that medical students and doctors have doubts about the vaccine schedule, the safety of vaccines, herd immunity and the ethical aspects of refusing vaccines— doubts that may lead to unpreparedness in addressing the issue of vaccine refusal, which is rising worldwide. The success of vaccination coverage has, among its determining factors, whether or not health professionals (and medical students) have enough knowledge and have correct knowledge about the importance of vaccines (THEODORIDOU, 2014).

Considering that the immunization of these professionals is recognized as the best form of protection against infectious risk (Edwards, et al., 2016), the vaccination of this group and its beliefs also need to be evaluated in the context of vaccine refusal. The researchers say that knowing the possible flaws in the concepts of this population will be useful in the creation of new content to be introduced in the programming for teaching about immunizations and the prevention of infectious diseases. It is also important to emphasize that, in medical schools’ curriculum, discussions around vaccination and the importance of vaccinating health professionals can enable future medical doctors to be more informed in the decision-making process about vaccination, which takes into account vaccination itself and ethical vaccination refusal. In the end, this ensures that vaccination programs are successful.


EDWARDS, K.M. Countering Vaccine Hesitancy. Pediatrics [online]. 2016, vol. 138, no. 3, e20162146, e-ISSN: 1098-4275 [viewed 29 February 2019]. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-2146. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27573088

THEODORIDOU, M. Professional and ethical responsibilities of health-care workers in regard to vaccinations. Vaccine [online]. 2014, vol. 32, no. 38, pp. 4866-4868, ISSN: 0264-410X [viewed 29 February 2019]. DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.05.068. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24951862

To read the article, access it

MIZUTA, A.H. Perceptions on the importance of vaccination and vaccine refusal in a medical school. Rev. paul. pediatr. [online]. 2019, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 34-40, ISSN: 0103-0582 [viewed 29 February 2019]. DOI: 10.1590/1984-0462/;2019;37;1;00008. Available from: http://ref.scielo.org/dh9592

External link

Revista Paulista de Pediatria – RPP <http://www.scielo.br/rpp>


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

SUCCI, R.C.M. Why are vaccines important for physicians and medical students? [online]. SciELO in Perspective | Press Releases, 2019 [viewed ]. Available from: https://pressreleases.scielo.org/en/2019/03/29/why-are-vaccines-important-for-physicians-and-medical-students/


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