PetSavers – BSAVA’s PetSavers funds SAVSNET PhD project investigating vaccine uptake and hesitancy

26 April 2020

PetSavers has approved the release of £50,000 to help fund a research project that will use SAVSNET data to investigate vaccine hesitancy and develop new strategies to improve vaccine uptake in companion animals. The money will be matched by funding from the University of Liverpool and applications are now being invited from potential PhD students, to work with the researchers at the University of Liverpool.

The initial development of Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) was significantly backed by BSAVA. SAVSNET, run by the University of Liverpool, maintains an ongoing collaboration with the BSAVA to harness electronic health and environmental data for rapid and actionable research and surveillance.

For the first time since pet vaccination was introduced into the UK in the 1960s, rates of uptake have been decreasing over the past three years. The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report in 2017 showed that only 75 per cent of dogs had received a primary vaccination course when young, and a further drop was reported in the PDSA PAW Report in 2019 (72%).

The project A mixed methods approach to quantifying and characterising vaccine uptake and vaccine hesitancy in UK companion animals will combine quantitative analysis of existing data from electronic health records with qualitative approaches. It will include interviews and focus-group discussions with vets and owners to gain an in-depth understanding of patterns of uptake of vaccination in UK. Experiences, perceptions and behaviours around uptake of vaccination and the rise of vaccine hesitancy in UK pet owners will also be investigated.

“Vaccination is a vital component of preventive healthcare and it is well acknowledged that sub-optimal vaccination uptake may be associated with re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases in populations,” said Dr Gina Pinchbeck, who will be leading the project at the University of Liverpool.

“It is essential that we understand the reasons for vaccine hesitancy in the pet population so that we can use the best methods to promote vaccine acceptance and uptake and this will be the primary focus of the study.”

The study will include the development of a knowledge and dissemination strategy, in association with PetSavers and BSAVA. This will include a project website, publication of scientific research and other articles for both practicing veterinary surgeons and for pet-owners, press releases, conference presentations and public-engagement presentations.

BSAVA President Professor Ian Ramsey added: “This project will be of great value to the veterinary profession and continues the co-operation between BSAVA and the University of Liverpool to build on the successes of the original SAVSNET partnership.”

For information on how to apply for the PhD please contact Dr Gina Pinchbeck ( and see the website here.