Cannes Panel Discussion On Combating Vaccine Hesitancy with Health Communications

25 Jun 2019

McCann Health’s Global Medical Director Dr. Dan Carucci joined Dr. Rebecca Martin, head of Global Health at the CDC, and Seema Kumar, VP Innovation, Global Health and Policy Communication at Johnson & Johnson, on a panel to discuss how creative agencies can help address the growing trend of vaccine hesitancy in the US and UK, as well as continue to support improved vaccine uptake in low-income countries.

Rajesh Mirchandani from the United Nations Foundation moderated the panel, which was opened with a special video message from the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.  The panelists touched on important factors which have contributed to the rise of skepticism among segments of the population, some of which were felt to have such entrenched points of views that there may be little hope of shifting their positions.  However, it was recognized that vast segments of the population fully support vaccines, while other in the middle are in the “pursuable” category.

A series of independent factors may have likely come together to create the current crisis.  For one, a shift from healthcare provider-centered trust to alternate sources of information including family, friends, and questionable Internet sources. There is also a plethora of misinformation and conspiracy theories stemming in part from a debunked medical report in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield proposing a link between measles vaccine and autism.  Another — a growing distrust in the pharmaceutical industry.  And, paradoxically, the actual success of vaccines in nearly eliminating the threat, both perceived and real, of the same infectious diseases that mandated their creation.

To address this growing problem, the panel agreed on the importance of developing emotional, insight-driven communications that will complement more traditional factually-based information on the importance of vaccines, the establishment of herd immunity, and vaccine safety.  As is the case in many public health campaigns where messaging is primarily focused on providing education and awareness, the panelists agreed that any new communications effort will need the substantial talents of creative agencies to tackle this enormous potential global health problem.

An exciting outcome of the panel was that all agreed that a new, coordinated public private partnership that includes health communications agencies is needed. All panelists committed to reconvene to define a path forward that will include McCann Health and other private sector health communications entities, CDC and other government agencies including WHO, J&J and other vaccine pharma partners.  McCann Health will help spearhead these efforts



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