The prevention of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, rubella, or polio, is dependent on herd immunity. Yet ensuring widespread vaccination coverage is complicated by a wide range of factors, not least vaccine hesitancy, through which segments of the public are uncertain about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations. There is a broad continuum of public perspectives on vaccination, and although there are a few polarised individuals on the extremes, many more people are somewhat uncertain and ambivalent about the vaccination decisions that they must make for themselves and their children.
The general public does not necessarily misunderstand vaccinology so much as re-interpret it to place a greater emphasis on factors more important to them as individuals. A wide range of factors might influence their perspective, including the media, social networks, and health professionals. In addition, structural barriers, such as pricing systems or even the absence of effective systems for reminding people about their scheduled vaccinations, may also contribute to the suboptimal vaccination coverage levels that can now be observed in many countries around the world.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recently hosted an expert workshop exploring this issue, and this call for papers seeks to build on this via original contributions from a wide range of disciplines (e.g. epidemiology, sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics) that addresses vaccine hesitancy and barriers to vaccination. Questions that papers might address include:
- What are the factors that influence public perceptions of vaccination risk and benefits? What trends can be observed in this area?
- How can vaccine hesitancy be best theorised and studied? What are the roles of structural factors? What are the roles of individual perspectives on risk, fear, or trust?
- What can be observed about the influence of health professionals on vaccination uptake and coverage?
- How can vaccination uptake and vaccine hesitancy best be monitored and modelled? How can social media be leveraged?
- Can vaccine hesitancy or the influence of human behaviour be modelled so as to anticipate upsurges in vaccine-preventable diseases?