Are malaria transmission-blocking vaccines acceptable to high burden communities? Results from a mixed methods study in Bo, Sierra Leone
Malaria transmission-blocking vaccines (TBVs) could help break the cycle of malaria transmission by conferring community rather than individual protection. When introducing new intervention strategies, uptake is dependent on acceptability, not just efficacy. In this exploratory study on acceptability of TBVs in Sierra Leone, it was hypothesized that TBVs would be largely acceptable to adults and health workers in areas with relatively few ongoing malaria interventions, and that (i) knowledge of malaria and vaccines, (ii) health behaviours associated with malaria and vaccines, and (iii) attitudes towards different vaccines types could lead to greater TBV acceptability.
This study used a mixed methods approach in Bo, Sierra Leone, to understand community knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to malaria and vaccination in general. This included: (i) a population-based cross-sectional survey (n=615 adults), (ii) 6 focus group discussions with parents, and (iii) 20 key informant interviews. The concept of a TBV was explained to participants before they were asked about their willingness to accept this vaccine modality as part of an integrated malaria elimination programme.
This study found that most adults would be willing to receive a TBV vaccine. Respondents noted mostly positive past experiences with adult and childhood vaccinations for other infectious diseases and high levels of engagement in other malaria prevention behaviors such as bed nets. Perceived barriers to TBV acceptance were largely focused on general community-level distribution of a vaccine, including personal fears of vaccination and possible costs. After an explanation of the TBV mechanism, nearly all focus group and interview participants believed that community members would accept the vaccine as part of an integrated malaria control approach. Both parents and health workers offered insight on how to successfully roll-out a future TBV vaccination programme.
The willingness of community members in Bo, Sierra Leone to accept a TBV as part of an integrated anti-malarial strategy suggests that the atypical mechanism of TBV action might not be an obstacle to future clinical trials. This study’s findings suggests that perceived general barriers to vaccination implementation, such as perceived personal fears and vaccine cost, must be addressed in future clinical and implementation research studies.
McCoy, K.D., Weldon, C.T., Ansumana, R. et al. Are malaria transmission-blocking vaccines acceptable to high burden communities? Results from a mixed methods study in Bo, Sierra Leone. Malar J 20, 183 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12936-021-03723-0