Defining the determinants of vaccine uptake and under-vaccination in migrant populations in Europe

Our new article in Lancet Infectious Diseases discusses why some migrants in Europe are at risk of under-immunisation and show lower vaccination uptake for routine and COVID-19 vaccines. Addressing this issue is critical if we are to address vaccination inequities and meet the goals of WHO’s new Immunisation Agenda 2030.

We carried out a systematic review exploring barriers and facilitators of vaccine uptake (categorised using the 5As taxonomy: access, awareness, affordability, acceptance, activation) and sociodemographic determinants of under-vaccination among migrants in the EU and European Economic Area, the UK, and Switzerland.

We identified multiple access barriers—including language, literacy, and communication barriers, practical and legal barriers to accessing and delivering vaccination services, and service barriers such as lack of specific guidelines and knowledge of health-care professionals—for key vaccines including measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus, human papillomavirus, influenza, polio, and COVID-19 vaccines.

Acceptance barriers were mostly reported in eastern European and Muslim migrants for human papillomavirus, measles, and influenza vaccines. We identified 23 significant determinants of under-vaccination in migrants, including African origin, recent migration, and being a refugee or asylum seeker.

We did not identify a strong overall association with gender or age. Tailored vaccination messaging, community outreach, and behavioural nudges facilitated uptake. Migrants’ barriers to accessing health care are already well documented, and this Review confirms their role in limiting vaccine uptake.

These findings hold immediate relevance to strengthening vaccination programmes in high-income countries, including for COVID-19, and suggest that tailored, culturally sensitive, and evidence-informed strategies, unambiguous public health messaging, and health system strengthening are needed to address access and acceptance barriers to vaccination in migrants and create opportunities and pathways for offering catch-up vaccinations to migrants.


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