Perspectives on State Vaccine Education Mandate Policy and Implementation among Public Health Department Officials: A Qualitative Study

Abstract [from journal]

In response to the increase in non-medical vaccine exemptions (NME), many states have adopted education mandates (EM), required vaccine education for parents requesting NMEs for their school-age children, but these EMs vary greatly in implementation. In order to learn about the administrative aspects of each state's EM, we interviewed fourteen health department officials from nine states with EMs. Interviews were conducted over the phone, transcribed by a professional transcription service, and double-coded using NVivo 12 by two members of the study staff. The coding resulted in 3698 comments overall, 98.5% inter-coder reliability, and a κ statistic of 0.691. We found no consistent format for content delivery, and methods used included in-person dialogues, web-based education, and video modules. Content of the education is not standardized, and education length ranges from 15-60 minutes. Four major themes about the EM policies emerged: 1) the use of EMs to eliminate "convenience exemptions;" 2) the importance of health department communication with healthcare providers; 3) facilitators and barriers to implementation; and 4) the positive recommendation for other states to adopt EM policies. We concluded that current EM implementation varies greatly, but officials in states which have adopted EMs for parents requesting NMEs for school-entry vaccinations overwhelmingly recommend other states to adopt them as well. Key features of successful programs may include conversations with parents requesting NMEs and strong communication channels with healthcare providers. Systematic tracking of vaccine status after exemption requests and education is necessary to quantitatively determine the effectiveness of EM programs.