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IOM: Vaccine Communication Slated for Revamp February 2, 2009

Posted by Brandi Hight in Health Communications & Marketing, Prevention.

The Institute of Medicine today is hosting a meeting of stakeholders in Washington, D.C., to discuss updating the 1994 National Vaccine Plan. This document maps out the nation’s priorities in vaccine research, safety practices, and future goals. Because of the significant advances in vaccine development and world events since the mid-1990s (rise of the Internet, vaccine shortages, bioterrorism), the federal government’s vaccine priorities are sorely in need of an overhaul.

The meeting is the third of four the IOM will convene on vaccine priorities, with today’s session covering communication and education. Vaccine communications is a critical topic now, when a growing number of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children due to safety concerns or philosophical objections. A 2006 JAMA article describes this phenomenon in detail, finding that more parents take advantage of vaccine opt-outs in states that offer nonmedical exemptions from vaccination requirements and these states experience higher rates of pertussis (whooping cough).

A 2008 vaccine draft plan includes much-needed sections on increasing communication about vaccine safety to help the public, providers and policymakers make more informed decisions. The IOM spells out the significance of getting it right:

“The importance of timely audience and message testing research to inform effective communications must not be underestimated. Uninformed strategies could be detrimental to public confidence and ultimately to vaccine coverage and control of vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Modern vaccine communication efforts must keep pace with new technology and pop culture (here’s a Slate commentary on an episode of Eli Stone that got many in vaccine community riled up). When some parents think Jenny McCarthy (Oprah clip) is just as trusted a source on vaccine risks as their pediatrician, the government should innovate its communications techniques to uphold buy-in in the U.S. vaccine system and ensure it continues to protect all of us.



1. nhokkanen - February 3, 2009

Jenny McCarthy gets her information from the doctors she credits in her books and on TV programs. And the experience of watching her son die after MMR complications, and thankfully revived by emergency room personnel.

The public would be best served hearing that the CDC and its state branches were putting some effort into vaccine injury prevention.


2. Brandi Hight - February 6, 2009

The CDC, the FDA and all other groups responsible for vaccine safety do put a tremendous amount of work into ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective. Here’s a link to the CDC’s Immunization Safety Office: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/about_iso.htm

In addition, there are plans in the works by these groups, in coordination with the American Academy of Pediatrics and other provider societies, to increase public awareness of vaccine safety through targeted communciatons campaigns.

The story you sent along from Age of Autism is sad and tragic, clearly there were a number of medical missteps made by caregivers throughout the ordeal. But the fact remains is that it is an anecdote of one family’s experience, not research based on the millions of people vaccinated every year who experience no problems. Every life is important, and hundreds of millions of lives the world over have been saved because of reduction in vaccine-preventable diseases.

3. annymorris - September 23, 2009

To my mind the vaccination is a gold vein today so that we should be careful with this stuff.

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