Knowledge, Attitudes, and Clinical Practice of Rheumatologists in Vaccination of the At-Risk Rheumatology Patient Population

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Abstract

Background

Patients with inflammatory arthritis are at increased risk of infection. Much of the burden of infection in this population is vaccine preventable. A number of international rheumatology organizations have published expert recommendations for vaccination in adult patients. Despite this, reported vaccination rates remain low among patients with inflammatory arthritis.

Objectives

We sought to establish the knowledge, attitudes, and clinical practice of rheumatologists with respect to vaccination.

Methods

Rheumatologists practicing in Ireland in 2009 were surveyed by postal questionnaire. Data collected was entered into Microsoft Excel and statistical analysis was carried out using SPSS18 software.

Results

Eighty (100%) practicing rheumatologists were surveyed. Response rate was 55% (44/80). Of those surveyed, 57% (25/44) had no written departmental vaccination guidelines. Although 90% of those surveyed agreed that the responsibility for ensuring vaccine compliance rests with health professionals, only 5% considered that the rheumatology clinic was the best setting in which to accomplish this. Half (50%, n = 22) of practicing rheumatologists do not inquire about vaccination history in the clinic, with a minority (9%, n = 4) recording vaccination history in their clinical notes. A significant percentage of rheumatologists do not perform screening about prior vaccination before initiation of either anti–tumor necrosis factor (34%) or disease-modifying antirheumatic disease (42%) therapy. Moreover, 57% (n = 25) considered the responsibility for vaccination the domain of the patients’ general practitioners with the favored strategy to improve vaccine compliance being led by the primary care physicians (48%, n = 21).

Conclusions

The practice of Irish rheumatologists with regard to vaccination in this survey was suboptimal. Most neither recommend nor record vaccination history in their clinical notes, with the majority feeling that the rheumatology clinic is not the appropriate setting in which to target strategies to improve vaccine compliance. Although a more proactive role needs to be taken by rheumatologists as the principal prescribers of immunosuppressive therapy on this issue, our survey respondents suggest that strategies to improve vaccine uptake should be developed outside the rheumatology clinic and, in particular, involve primary care. The circulation of currently available international guidelines on vaccination specific for rheumatology patients to primary care physicians should be used to inform practices to ensure improved vaccine compliance.

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