Background: The US military provides many immunizations to its adult members to protect them from infectious disease threats. Ancillary healthcare staff members, including Navy hospital corpsmen, are the frontline for immunization delivery. Concerns have been raised about some military immunization practices, especially with the added complexity of biodefense vaccines targeting anthrax and smallpox.
Objectives: To evaluate evolving immunization knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs among military immunization professionals.
Methods: A survey was designed and distributed to US Navy corpsmen in 2000; this survey was redistributed to a new group of comparable-level Navy corpsmen in 2012.
Results: More than 200 respondents provided survey information; 80% were male, with an average age of 28 years at the time of response, and 6% had formal education past high school. Basic immunization knowledge was strong, based on questions about influenza, hepatitis, and tetanus vaccines, although 43% of respondents in the 2000-era did not identify anthrax vaccine as FDA-licensed. More than half of respondents reported personally experiencing an adverse reaction to a vaccine; 6% sought care for adverse reactions. All respondents agreed that vaccines are important for disease prevention and 70% agreed that vaccines are generally safe. No respondents agreed with a statement that vaccines are only important for children; 5% agreed that the military requires unnecessary vaccines. More than 96% recognized their fellow corpsmen as sources of information on immunizations, and nearly 80% felt personally comfortable in their ability to provide such information to others.
Conclusions: The US military relies heavily on ancillary healthcare staff to administer vaccines to adult members and provide information on immunizations. This survey study, spanning two generations of military immunization professionals, demonstrates the importance of maintaining very strong education and consultative support systems for ancillary staff within the diverse and complex military immunization programs.