Vaccine hesitancy

As reported in the ASSET Strategic plan, the three Summer Schools on Science in Society related issues in Pandemics (2015, 2016, 2017) pose the main challenge of the collaborative project overall that is dealing with the intersectoral approach required by the management of Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC), like epidemics and pandemics.

Some things just do not want to die. In public health, anti-vaccination movements keep sizzling debates, just as they did in the XIX century. At the same time,  the “deficit model” of science communication – the myth that the “public” is just ignorant and that it would support science, if spoon-fed information from the ivory tower – still haunts the relationship between health, science and the community, despite having been repeatedly debunked. The two zombies are more related than one could believe. Vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination movements grow in the cracks between trust and knowledge, and these are the fault lines that communication should heal – or rip apart, if it fails.

The second edition of the ASSET best practice award for general practitioners has come to an end, with the assignment of the four grants to health professionals or groups of health professionals working in the primary health sector.

Immunization rates in Italy are decreasing at a worrying trend: international targets for measles eradication and safety thresholds in childhood vaccination are vanishing. Authorities, doctors and families are concerned that a coverage below 86% for MPR (measles, parotitis and rubella) vaccine can impair herd immunity, putting younger babies, immunocompromised people and not-responders at risk.

A very recent and innovative example of good practice concerning awareness campaigns is the “Italian Chart for the Promotion of Vaccinations”, a recent call for action whose website is: http://www.teamvaxitalia.it/. Namely, the Chart is the result of the efforts of the “TeamVaxItaly” movement that had been founded in a civil society meeting in Fano (Italy) in October 2015.

Parents, healthcare workers, bloggers and science communicators have launched a positive experience in Italy, with the aim of sharing and promoting scientific information towards an important public health goal: to face the drop in vaccine coverage.

May 27, 2016

Susanna Esposito, professor of Paediatrics at the University of Milan, Italy and president of WAIDID (World Association for Infectious Diseases), thinks that families need more information about safety and efficacy of vaccines, in order to overcome their growing hesitancy towards them.

Communication is the key.

Until the end, it seemed it could sort out to be a happy-ending story, a demonstration of how new social networks, renown for spreading misinformation, can also correct it, when used properly. But the unfortunately predictable finale showed the opposite: counteracting false ideas about vaccines is not that easy. It will take time, a big deal of patience, communication skills and a good, coordinated strategy as well.

High rates of vaccination coverage in childhood are main indicators for public health. However, reaching and maintaining such a target is not always an easy task for public health institutions, and the spread of vaccine refusal and hesitancy is making this even harder. Enforcing mandatory vaccinations is one of the strategies that some countries adopted and others are considering in order to face

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