13 – 19 June 2019

Vaccines in the news

Heidi Larson, from LSHTM’s Vaccine Confidence Project (VCP) is an expert advisor on the new Wellcome Global Monitor (WGM) report. The WGM surveyed around 140,000 people from more than 140 countries, asking how people think and feel about science and key health challenges, including vaccinations.

Key findings from the WGM, which used the Vaccine Confidence Index developed by the VCP, include:

  • Globally, around eight in 10 people agree vaccines are safe, and nine in 10 people worldwide say their children have been vaccinated.
  • People living in high-income countries have the lowest confidence in vaccines.
  • In most parts of the world, higher confidence in health systems, governments and scientists is a sign of high trust in vaccines – but the picture is more complicated in Europe.

Responding to the findings, Heidi Larson said: “The Wellcome Global Monitor exposes the paradox of Europe where, despite being a region with among the highest income and education levels, has the highest levels of vaccine scepticism in the world.

 “The findings are consistent with earlier research by the Vaccine Confidence Project, but this report brings in the context of trust in science and health more broadly.”

Heidi’s comments are covered by more than 500 outlets around the world including the Guardian, Reuters, RT France  Financial Times, Japan Times, New York Post and BuzzFeed

Heidi speaks to the BMJ for a piece looking at why younger people need assurance around vaccines. Heidi said: “I don’t think we have an emergency today, but trends are really important, and where the UK is right now is vulnerable. It needs proactive confidence building, particularly targeted at younger populations.”

This week BBC World Service are focusing on vaccines as part of a special series – ‘The World Vaccination Report’.

Heidi Larson is interviewed for BBC World Service’s Healthcheck about the take-up of vaccines around the world. Heidi said: “We had 83,000 cases of measles in Europe alone last year in 2018 and why, well it’s kind of a perfect storm because measles is highly infectious, for example the New York City area had more than half the entire cases in the United States. For measles the WHO recommends close to 95% vaccination coverage to be able to create herd immunity.”

Beate Kampmann and Emilie Karafillakis join a panel discussion on BBC World Service’s The Evidence. The panel discussed global variations in vaccine confidence. Beate said: “I work in West Africa and I have yet to see a family that says no to a vaccine, because people on the ground see the benefit of preventing diseases.”

Beate is interviewed by BBC World News for their Impact programme about confidence in vaccines and whether vaccinations should be compulsory. Beate said: “There is a conversation to be had about a personal right to decide about vaccination and a public health imperative to vaccinate. Public health imperative is hugely important and at times that might direct vaccination decisions.”

Beate also takes part in a Facebook Live for BBC, answering questions from the public about vaccines.

Emilie is interviewed by BBC World Service for their World at One programme (33m 40 s in). On the findings from the WGM report, Emilie said: “80% of the global populations believe that vaccines are safe. What is concerning are pockets of populations that are growing hesitant and feeling less confident to vaccinate.”

Emilie was also interview by ITV News (starts about 20m 38s in and registration needed) and France 24.

In other news

Peter Piot is interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (01:49:30) about the current outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), ahead of a WHO meeting to decide whether the outbreak will be declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Peter said: “We need to do more…gaining community trust and engagement is really essential. What we need is a Kofi Annan for peace and secondly we need to deploy the two vaccines that are available on a large scale, the one by Merck and the one by Johnson & Johnson, and that must start right now.”

The WHO did not declare the outbreak a PHEIC. Peter issued a comment on the outcome of the meeting.

The Independent covered the story and Peter’s interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Dan Bausch speaks to BBC World Service’s Newsday programme about Ebola in DRC (live link not available). Dan said: “You could probably not have a more difficult area to contain an outbreak than North Kivu in DRC. Its population has really suffered, from not only Ebola but other diseases and violence over the last few decades. It couldn’t be more complex, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t ultimately control it. We need to get a reset in terms of social mobilisation, engaging the community and also to think of some newer methods that may need to be put into place, along with creative use of experimental vaccines.”

Dan also speaks to Reuters about why societal issues are as crucial as scientific advances in controlling disease outbreaks. Dan said: “While improved communication flows can help public health authorities track diseases and spread messages to people about how to protect themselves, greater access to a vast range of information can make the public become more sceptical of authority and can spread misinformation, including about vaccines.”

Heather Wardle co-authors a piece for The Conversation, exploring how a potential gambling tax would need to work in order to help fund treatment and research into gambling harms. The authors say:We need to overhaul the system in which commercial gambling is regulated. This would involve a new gambling act that is focused on protecting public health rather than promoting gambling as a leisure activity. This new approach is long overdue.”

Cicely Marston provides expert comment to i News on a new study which found that youths who engage in ‘sexting’ are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, use drugs and fail to use contraception. Cicely said: “There seems to be an assumption that ‘sexting’ is a heterosexual activity, otherwise why mention contraception, and certainly there is no explicit consideration of diverse gender identities or sexualities which again limits what we can understand from the findings.”

Melissa Parker writes a Lancet Correspondence piece about Ebola and community engagement. The piece reflects on the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone in 2014 and discusses the need for contextually sensitive community engagement to help tackle the current outbreak in DRC.

New Indian Express reports on a pilot initiative that has been implemented in India to prevent avoidable blindness. The pilots are testing a new comprehensive approach to eye health, which includes prevention, screening and treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy and Retinopathy of Prematurity. The initiative was developed in association with the Public Health Foundation of India, LSHTM and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.

Janet Weston, Kate Perris and Hannah J Elizabeth are co-authors on a letter published in The Independent where academics and colleagues working in higher education register their support for policies and practices which are inclusive and supportive of LGBTQIA+ colleagues and students.

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from the LSHTM Twitter page, sharing news that LSHTM’s Research in Action feature series has been nominated for the ‘Better Storytelling Award’ and the Content EC Awards.

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