School staff and immunization governance: Missed opportunities for public health promotion

Mark C. Navin, Andrea T. Kozak, Katie Attwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: In US states, childhood immunization mandates are enforced for school registration by front-line school staff, usually secretaries. Despite substantial changes to mandate policies in several states and many countries, little attention has been paid to the people who enforce them. This qualitative pilot study aimed to uncover beliefs, attitudes, and practices regarding immunization governance of Michigan school staff. Method: Front-line administrative workers from Michigan schools and district offices were solicited by email. Sixteen were interviewed remotely. Results: Front-line school staff believed in vaccines, but did not advocate for vaccination while registering children. Instead, they sought low-friction bureaucratic transactions, privileging the collection of data over the promotion of public health goals. This revealed a mismatch between the goals of the front-line staff who enforce vaccine mandates in schools and the goals of the policymakers who created school vaccine mandates. Conclusions: This study found low mobilization of front-line enforcers of mandates in public-facing school administration roles, a problem likely to afflict the majority of American states with the ‘mandates + exemptions’ model of immunization governance. Schools would have stronger incentives to promote vaccination if state funding were better tied to immunization compliance. Front-line staff could better enforce vaccine mandates if they were provided with resources and training about vaccine promotion.

Original languageEnglish
JournalVaccine
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Sep 2021

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