Measles notification rates in Europe in 2011, ECDC

Measles notification rates in Europe in 2011, ECDC

A quick glance at HealthMap today showed resurgence of whooping cough in the US, Canada and Scotland. Rubella is bouncing back, and measles is hanging on in Europe. These diseases are all preventable by vaccines. And in all these countries the vaccines are available, accessible and affordable to all. That leaves awareness and/or acceptance of vaccination as the gap. On May 25 in Geneva at the World Health Assembly ministers of health from 94 countries endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan. One of the 6 strategic objectives of this roadmap for global vaccination in the next decade is:   “Individuals and communities understand the value of vaccines and demand immunization as both their right and responsibility”   This objective clearly aims to fill the awareness/acceptance gap. Importantly, the public is also clearly identified as a stakeholder in vaccination. However, with preventable disease outbreaks cropping up everywhere, clearly there is a need for all stakeholders in vaccination – public included – to do a better job securing public acceptance of this life-preserving act. Mike Watson and I recently published an editorial in Science Translational Medicine in which we propose a broad, integrated framework for vaccination advocacy that moves way beyond the standard ‘broadcast the facts and wonder why they don’t get it’ communications approach employed by most authorities and advocates at present (see my last post).1 This approach is based on 4 insights we had:

  • the deficit model of science communication doesn’t work
  • because people tend to prefer to trust their sense of ‘truthiness’ (see below)
  • the cognitive and social sciences can tell us how and why that happens
  • then we can use those insights to communicate the evidence in an evidence-based way (hint: stop broadcasting, start engaging)

I will be expanding upon the many themes we touch upon in this paper in later blog posts. Meanwhile, here is the renowned social scientist Stephen Colbert explaining his concept of truthiness2:   “The truth that you feel in your gut, regardless of what the facts support”   1. A. Thomson, M. Watson. (2012) Listen, understand, engage. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 138ed6 (Download PDF from link on this page to avoid log-in) 2. Newman EJ et al. (2012) Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness. Psychon Bull Rev. DOI: 10.3758/s13423-012-0292-0 [abstract here]

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  1. Koyu

    Friday, August 31, 2012

    I can think of two distinct rnesoas for people to resist vaccinations.First, of course, is needle phobia. Would it be possible, or worthwhile, to use something like EMLA, to make the injection pain free, or less painful?Second is the mistrust of vaccinations, or a general resistance to taking medicine when you’re not sick. I’m usually on the fence about getting a flu shot. I’m not elderly and I’ve never had the flu. Honestly, I’d rather skip it, but since I’m a nurse, I know I should get it.What works best for me is making it extremely convenient for me to get the injection. Have flexible hours when it’s available. Is it possible to bring it to the patients where they work, instead of making them come to you?And I agree that a trip to Hawaii would be a good incentive. Was this answer helpful?

    • Angus

      Monday, September 3, 2012

      Thank you for your comment.

      It is interesting to hear that a nurse is not sure about the annual flu shot. Do you see this vaccine as a personal protection or a protection for your patients?

      I agree that it is important to make it as easy as possible to access vaccination. Access is probably a major barrier to vaccination uptake in many contexts.

      Incentives may also help tip the balance from vaccination being a slightly negative experience (eg, long walk to clinic) to a slightly positive experience, and this has been shown to increase uptake of vaccination. In an interesting study in India, when parents were nudged with a small bag of lentils – albeit a little more modest that a trip to Hawaii – there was a marked increase in uptake of vaccination, even after access had been well improved.