Restore trust in vaccinations

=I vaguely remember getting what I think were my smallpox and polio vaccines. The details don't matter so much as the message I got from my mom.

It was a big day. On the way, my mom explained that I was getting vaccinated and it should protect me from polio, which had crippled one of her friends. My mom eagerly marched my four-year-old self into our tiny rural school and the deed was done.

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The current measles outbreak is sad, unfortunate and was likely mostly avoidable. The public policy health perspective seems to be "if only there weren't so many anti-vaxxers allowed to spread disinformation on facebook and Instagram we wouldn't have this problem."

This elitist perspective is a lazy way to deal with the loss of public trust. Professionals can and should do better.

Public health initiatives require public buy-in, because they fail without the trust required for success. Therefore, public opinion is the one that really matters, more than the actual science. Yes, public "opinion" is the one that matters, because the public has to show up.

From my layperson's eye view, part of the fault lies in the promotion of the newer vaccines seeking to eradicate the less damaging illnesses. I think specifically of the flu vaccines.

Each year, we are encouraged to seek out the newest iteration of the flu vaccine so that we escape serious harm and serious harm to the Canadian economy. Perhaps it doesn't really fly when many of us get a day off work with pay when sick, or we are happy to just get a mini-vacation because of our fast pace of life. We don't make decisions based on what it will do to the Canadian economy. We make personal cost-benefit decisions based on what we know or care about.

Another argument is to prevent the deaths of the sick and frail. People do grasp the irony of how we treat them: we insist that the sick and frail be "protected" from the hazard of the flu by posting signs to warn visitors to stay away if they don't have the vaccine, only to "encourage" them to suicide by offering medical assistance in dying.

To top it all off, the efficacy rate of the flu vaccine, unlike our older, traditional vaccines, has varied widely between 10 and 60 or so per cent. These poor efficacy rates transfer to all vaccines in the public opinion.

Over the last number of years, when young parents heard the word vaccine through the magic of advertising, they thought of the flu vaccine, because that's the one being advertised. They made a cost-benefit analysis and the low efficacy rates just don't make a convincing case. They don't remember measles, pertussis, diphtheria, tuberculosis, or polio.

The general public's trust in vaccinations has been lost, partly due to the flu vaccines. I just hope we don't have to endure a serious epidemic in order to rebuild that trust.

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