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A mixed methods approach to quantifying and characterising vaccine uptake and vaccine hesitancy in UK companion animals

   Institute of Infection and Global Health

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  Dr G Pinchbeck, Prof E Perkins, Prof A Radford, Dr D Singleton  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Vaccination is an essential component of preventive healthcare, and it is well acknowledged that suboptimal vaccination uptake may be associated with outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in populations. Although pet vaccination has been part of companion animal health since the first introduction into the UK in the 1960s, pet vaccination rates have been decreasing over the past three years.

It is likely there are many factors that influence vaccine uptake or rejection, however there is very little research on how owners understand vaccination, and how this impacts on the choices they make on behalf of their pets. Similarly, the ways in which veterinarians understand their role in preventive care is little researched. It is essential that we understand the reasons for sub-optimal vaccine uptake in the pet population so that we can use the best methods to promote vaccine acceptance and uptake, thus ensuring the health of the pet population.

This study will use a mixed-methods approach combining quantitative and qualitative enquiry. Analysis of existing data from electronic health records from SAVSNET (, which now has information from over eight million electronic health records from UK first opinion practices, will examine vaccine trends in cats and dogs over time and describe variation in vaccination rates. Qualitative approaches including in-depth interviews and focus-groups will be used to explore the experiences, perceptions, and behaviours of owners and veterinarians towards vaccination of cats and dogs. Focus-groups/workshops will be held towards the end of the project to discuss findings and develop new strategies to improve vaccine uptake. This will inform a knowledge dissemination strategy developed in association with PetSavers and BSAVA.

The student will gain expertise in a range of key skills throughout the project through both formal and informal training. Training will include generic career and research skills as well as specific skills, particularly focused on quantitative and qualitative skills. Quantitative training in handling large datasets and advanced statistical analysis using R will be provided by in-house post-graduate training courses and the supervisors. Training in qualitative approaches will be from attendance at University of Liverpool courses such as Engage and Master’s modules, in addition to the supervisory team.

The successful candidate will be based at the Leahurst Campus in the Department of Epidemiology and Population health and will become part of a vibrant multidisciplinary team encompassing epidemiologists, clinicians, and microbiologists as well as the existing SAVSNET team. This team has a proven track record of collaboration and research projects. The student will join a cohort of PhD and Masters students and post-doctoral researchers all undertaking veterinary science-related research projects.

To apply for this opportunity, please send your CV and covering letter to [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

This studentship would be suitable for a UK/EU graduate with veterinary science, related biological science or social science degree. Prior experience of qualitative research is not essential but aptitude and desire to develop deeper skills in this area is essential. The student will liaise with the UK veterinary profession and owners so good communication skills are essential. This studentship is generously funded by British Small Animal Veterinary Association Petsavers Charitable Trust and University of Liverpool and includes a tax-free stipend of £15,009 per-annum, enhanced to £23,164 for a veterinary graduate. All research expenses and fees at Home/EU rates are included.