According to the World Health Organization (WHO), measles cases have skyrocketed with a 300 % increase worldwide in the first three months of 2019 alone, when compared to last year. Public health officials are concerned over the impact of growing anti-vaccination campaigns.
Vaccine hesitancy, which is defined by the WHO as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services”, has been reported in more than 90% of countries in the world. Mr Gary Finnegan, Editor of Vaccines Today and IFA Expert, notes in an article from The Independent that although nothing is 100% safe, vaccines have fewer side effects than most medical interventions.
With a degree in physiology, an MSc in science communication and a special interest in vaccination, Mr Finnegan has a unique combination of knowledge and experience in the field of health communications. He can be contacted to learn about the importance of immunization across the life course and how public health officials, health care workers and governments can tackle the increasing uneasiness over vaccines through various platforms, such as social media.
While he doesn’t agree with the concept behind anti-vaccination, Mr Finnegan can empathize with some of the concerns:
“I took my own kids to have a meningitis vaccine recently and one of them had a temperature afterwards. This usually doesn't happen but I can see that when it does it's unpleasant. However, now he's very unlikely to get this very serious disease and I take a lot of comfort from that.” – Gary Finnegan
The public health and science communities are called to improve accessibility, communication and listening. A Lancet article notes that physicians’ advice has been shown to be the most influential factor in the decision to vaccinate. For Mr Finnegan, communication should be a combination of storytelling and science.
“…it is essential that when people go online for information they are left with the clear impression that vaccines are safe and effective." – Gary Finnegan, WIRED
Vaccination is a critical disease prevention tool and is needed throughout the life course. Physicians are also raising awareness about under vaccination among adults, a recent CBC article notes. Immunity can wear off over time for some vaccines taken in childhood, and the need for booster shots is highlighted. Older adults in particular are vulnerable to the effects of infectious diseases and should be educated on the importance of immunization to foster healthy ageing. In addition to addressing vaccine hesitancy, this is one of the many conversations the IFA’s World Coalition on Adult Vaccination has taken the lead on to improve vaccination uptake rates globally.