Top global public health scientists launch new challenge to anti-vaxxers

Summary: Recently, the WHO declared vaccine hesitancy one of the top ten international public health problems. They report the crisis is man-made, unnecessary and dangerous. Researchers are calling on search engines and social media organizations to do more to stem anti-vaccine rhetoric, and stop the spread of disinformation surrounding vaccinations. They also call for governments to better support mandatory immunization programs.

Source: Taylor and Francis Group

Search engines and social media organizations must do more to prevent the spread of inaccurate information on childhood vaccination, and governments must better support mandatory immunization programs, says an international group of leading public health scientists in a statement published in the Journal of Health Communication.

The Salzburg Statement on Vaccination Acceptance lays down several recommendations to combat the global fall in vaccination rates fuelled by a powerful worldwide ‘anti-vax’ movement. The statement, which pledges to “support the development of new, effective and fact-based communications programs” to help parents, community and government leaders make appropriate decisions on childhood immunization, has already been endorsed by more than 60 public health leaders from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

It calls upon major search engines and social media organizations to better monitor the vaccine information they provide so that they can improve the identification of disproven or inaccurate false claims about vaccine safety – just as they do for sexually explicit, violent and threatening messages.

At the same time, advocacy groups, educators and health professionals should join forces to correct misleading vaccine information and disseminate reliable, accurate information via mass and social media and through trusted sources at all levels of society, including celebrities, faith-based leaders and parents.

Governments and policymakers should support laws that limit exemptions from mandatory vaccinations and treat childhood vaccination like other essential services such as police, firefighters and public sanitation, the statement also says.

“We are alarmed that the WHO this year declared vaccine hesitancy a top-ten international public health problem. This is a man-made, dangerous and wholly unnecessary crisis. We intend to keep up a steady drumbeat of accurate vaccine communications until the traditional public consensus in support of childhood immunization is restored,” said Dr. Scott Ratzan, founding editor of the Journal of Health Communication and founder of the International Working Group (IWG) on Vaccination and Public Health Solutions.

Vaccines have prevented hundreds of millions of infectious diseases, including polio, measles, hepatitis B and meningitis, saving up to 3 million lives yearly. Every US dollar spent on childhood immunization returns up to $44 in benefits. However, immunization rates globally are threatened by misinformation spread by the ‘anti-vax’ movement. Vaccine coverage has waned in many populations, and the US and 34 countries in the WHO’s European region no longer have the 95% immunization rate that provides the ‘herd immunity’ necessary to protect against highly contagious diseases such as measles.

This shows hands holding a drawing of a family

Vaccines have prevented hundreds of millions of infectious diseases, including polio, measles, hepatitis B and meningitis, saving up to 3 million lives yearly. The image is in the public domain.

Prof. Lawrence Gostin, Director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law and co-director of the IWG, said: “The resurgence of potentially life-threatening diseases like measles, which the US Centers for Disease Control declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, undermines the integrity of childhood protections that thousands of dedicated scientists, doctors, and public health officials spent the better part of the last century putting in place. Parents do have rights to make informed decisions about vaccinating their children, but they do not have the right to place their children, or other children, at risk of a serious infectious disease. We need to do a far better job of reaching out to vaccine-hesitant parents.”

The IWG authors of the new statement are among the most recognizable, independent leaders in the public health, medicine, legal and communications fields:

Barry R. Bloom Ph.D., Professor and Dean Emeritus, Harvard School of Public Health

Ayman El-Mohandes, MD, MPH, Dean, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy

Jonathan Fielding, MD, MPH, MPA, Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management and Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics, UCLA

Lawrence O. Gostin, JD, University Professor, Founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law, Georgetown University

James G. Hodge, JD LLM, Professor of Public Health Law and Ethics, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University

Peter Hotez, MD, Ph.D. Dean, National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine

Ann Kurth, Ph.D., RN, MPH, Dean and Professor, Yale University School of Medicine

Heidi J. Larson, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Risk and Decision Science, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Joanna Nurse, BMed, MPH, MSc, Ph.D., Professor of Planetary Health, Southampton University

Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH, Ph.D., William H. Foege Professor of Global Health, Professor of Epidemiology and Pediatrics, Emory University

Walter A. Orenstein, MD, DSc (Hon), Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, Global Health and Epidemiology, Emory University

Kenneth H. Rabin, Ph.D., Health Communications Consultant and Special Projects Editor, Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives

Scott C. Ratzan, MD, MPA, MA, Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School, Senior Scholar, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives

Daniel Salmon, Ph.D., MPH, Professor and Director, Institute for Vaccine Safety, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

About this neuroscience research article

Source:
Taylor and Francis Group
Media Contacts:
Saskia Kovandzich – Taylor and Francis Group
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: Open access
“The Salzburg Statement on Vaccination Acceptance”. Scott C. Ratzan, Barry R. Bloom, Ayman El-Mohandes, Jonathan Fielding, Lawrence O. Gostin, James G. Hodge, Peter Hotez, Ann Kurth, Heidi J. Larson, Joanna Nurse, Saad B. Omer, Walter A. Orenstein, Daniel Salmon & Kenneth Rabin.
Journal of Health Communication. doi:10.1080/10810730.2019.1622611

Abstract

The Salzburg Statement on Vaccination Acceptance

Immunization represents one of the greatest public health achievements. Vaccines save lives, make communities more productive and strengthen health systems. They are critical to attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Vaccination also represents value for investment in public health. It is undisputedly one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease, each year preventing 2–3 million deaths globally.

We the concerned scientists, public health professionals, physicians, and child health advocates issue this Salzburg Statement along with the International Working Group on Vaccination and Public Health Solutions, proclaiming our unwavering commitment to universal childhood vaccination, and our pledge to support the development, testing, implementation, and evaluation of new, effective, and fact-based communication programs.

Our goal is to explain vaccinations to parents or caregivers, answer their questions, address their concerns, and maintain public confidence in the personal, family and community protection that childhood vaccines provide. Every effort will also be made to communicate the dangers associated with these childhood illnesses to parents and communities since this information seems to have been lost in the present-day narrative. While vaccine misinformation has led to serious declines in community vaccination rates that require immediate attention, in other communities, particularly in low-income countries, issues such as lack of access. and unstable supply of vaccines need to be addressed.

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