INTRODUCTION: Europe has been dealing with an increasing number of refugees during the past 5 years. The timing of screening and vaccination of refugees is debated by many professionals, however refugees' perspectives on health issues are infrequently taken into account. In this study, we aimed to investigate asylum seekers' perspectives on infectious diseases screening and vaccination policies.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Interviews were conducted in Greece and the Netherlands. Asylum seekers and recently arrived refugees were approached and informed with the help of interpreters; consent forms were acquired. The survey focused on demographic data, vaccination status, screening policies and prevention of infectious diseases.
RESULTS: A total of 61 (43 male, 70.5%) refugees (30 Afghanis, 16 Syrian, 7 Erithrean) were interviewed. Mean age was 35.2 years (SD 13.5) and 50% had received primary or secondary education, while 24.6% received none. Median time after arrival in Greece and the Netherlands was 24 months (IQR 8.5-28). 44 out of 61 (72.1) participants were willing to be vaccinated after arrival in Europe, 26 preferred vaccination and screening to be performed at the point of entry. The need for screening and vaccination was perceived higher amongst participants in Greece (100% vs 43.3%) due to living conditions leading to increased risk of outbreaks.
CONCLUSION: Participants were willing to communicate their perspectives and concerns. Screening and vaccination programs could be more effective when implemented shortly after arrival and by involving asylum seekers and refugees when developing screening and vaccination interventions.