Ethics & Engagement across the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programmes

Vaccine culture: Perceptions and attitudes towards maternal and infant vaccination in rural and urban Vietnam

Ha Nguyen Thanh is a GHBN PhD Fellow, 2018-2022


I’m currently a PhD student based at Oxford University Clinical Research Unit-HCM, working on vaccine perception and acceptance in Vietnam. For me, this is a very important public health issue as recent years has witnessed serious outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles. Occasionally, I write articles and deliver talks about psychology and mental health for Vietnamese young people. I possess a Master's Degree in Global Mental Health awarded by the University of London and a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental and Public health from Middlesex University. My work interests focus on exploring health perceptions and behaviours and improving health literacy, especially towards disease prevention.

Project Summary

In Vietnam the EPI program was introduced in 1981, followed by the maternal and neonatal tetanus initiative in 1992: both aiming to eliminate vaccine preventable disease. Reported national coverage has been high over the last decade and the Vietnam Ministry of Health declared the elimination of polio in 2000 and maternal and neonatal tetanus in 2005. However, the last few years have witnessed cases of vaccine-preventable diseases such as tetanus in rural areas and sporadic outbreaks of measles in urban cities, which indicates a potential gap in vaccine uptake in different areas in the country.

It is important to explore public perceptions and attitudes towards vaccines in order to implement an effective immunization programme. In low and middle-income settings, individual health choices are affected by various factors at different ecological levels including contextual, social and individual levels. Previous studies from Oxford University Clinical Research Unit reveal that low uptake can be associated with two main challenges. Firstly the ethnic communities in disadvantaged areas may face structural and socio-cultural barriers hindering access to vaccines. The other is concern and hesitancy among both the community and healthcare workers as a result of recent severe adverse events following pentavalent vaccination. Against this context, my research project aims to explore perceptions, attitudes and behaviors related to vaccines in both urban and rural areas in Vietnam. This is a social science study combining different methods including a literature review of history and contexts, quantitative surveys and qualitative in-depth interviews of multiple stakeholders involved in the national immunization programme, which includes pregnant women, parents, healthcare workers and influential people in the community. Community engagement activities to promote better vaccine acceptance and accessibility will also be designed and evaluated to improve uptake rates in the rural areas.

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