In a series of blog posts, Mike Watson (www.immunereaction.com) and I will propose a structured, evidence-based, globally applicable approach for building and sustaining acceptance of vaccination. An approach that will give national vaccination programs a triple-A rating for uptake: Access, affordability, awareness, acceptance, activation (yes, thats 5 in fact). And then provide a matrix of solutions for the development of a strategy that will help close any vaccination uptake gap.
The topic of vaccination acceptance has finally hit the global agenda, yet now that the problem has been widely acknowledged, we seem to be struggling to figure out what to do. You cannot understand what you cannot measure. Recent discussions overheard at many levels suggest that the natural scientists who populate the vaccination ecosystem are struggling to measure vaccination acceptance with natural science methodologies. This is not surprising, given that vaccination acceptance is about people, not microbes. Biology can tell us a lot about a virus, from its genome to its epidemiology, but these methodological approaches fail miserably to explain those weird irrational human behaviours that control our decisions.
If we cannot apply a natural sciences approach to a human problem, then what are we to do? Well, there is good news. Very good news. The social and behavioural sciences have, for quite some time, been doing a great job of measuring and understanding what influences human behaviour. It is time for vaccinologists to agree that the sciences we use have hit their limit with this new/old problem of trust in vaccination. And instead of trying to put a screw in with a hammer, we need to get a screwdriver (no offence meant to social scientists).
We claim no expertise in the social or behavioural sciences, which is exactly the point. Everything we are learning about the social and cognitive determinants of vaccination behaviour is coming from behavioural and social science experts and literature. We have happily acknowledged the limitations of clinical medicine, molecular biology, epidemiology and so on. We have accepted that we are odd irrational beings who can apply our years of training in empirical sciences to better justify post-hoc the decisions we have made through a trail of cognitive short-cuts that passed through the prism of our worldview.
And we now want to do things better, to actually have an impact, with the help of the social and behavioural sciences.