The Salzburg Global Fellows, an international group of public health leaders, has issued a statement confirming its commitment to worldwide vaccine acceptance to eliminate vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, mumps and rubella. In its statement, the group outlined four priorities for action intended to improve childhood vaccine coverage.
“The most important of the four points is that we all need to do a much better job of communicating the benefits of vaccination to parents and in the community,” Scott Ratzan, MD, MPA, senior scholar at The City University of New York’s Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “We need to communicate effectively and clearly in a health-literate way. For example, ‘herd immunity’ is not a good term, since it’s not really accurate and not understood well by everyone. Changing the term to ‘community protection’ and, more generally, speaking in understandable ways is key to furthering the social norm and evidence-based benefits of vaccination coverage.”
Ratzan said that clinicians can become better communicators by listening to parents, taking their concerns about vaccines seriously and providing answers with understandable, health-literate information.
The statement also prioritizes the role of search engines and social media organizations in spreading accurate vaccine information. Ratzan and colleagues advise tech companies to “develop principles that distinguish ‘levels of evidence’ in the vaccine information they provide so that they can improve identification of disproven/inaccurate false claims about vaccine safety for their users that have led to the return of childhood diseases,” they wrote. They also advocated for the inclusion of information from sound scientific sources.
Ratzan and colleagues also called on lawmakers and advocacy groups to step up their efforts by supporting laws that mandate childhood vaccination, widely disseminate reliable and understandable vaccine information through mass and social media and promote “community protection” to reinforce vaccination as being equivalent to public services like law enforcement or sanitation.
Lastly, they called upon parents to actively seek vaccination information from sources with verified scientific and medical expertise and to be wary of the deluge of misinformation promoting anti-vaccination agendas.
“Immunizations are an 18th century invention that have scaled as a medical technology and saved millions of lives,” Ratzan said. “We are at risk of losing a foundational element of public health — trust in the system and community protection.” – by Joe Gramigna
Salzburg Global Seminar. The Salzburg statement on vaccination acceptance. http://sph.cuny.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Salzburg_Statement_on_Vaccination_Acceptance.01.pdf. Accessed June 19, 2019.
Disclosure: Ratzan reports no relevant financial disclosures.