Listening to end-users of vaccines, and engaging with any concerns they may have, will be the key to improving uptake of existing and future vaccines, according to a leading patient advocate.
Speaking in the European Parliament at the launch of a report on the future of vaccine research, Daphne Holt, Vice President of the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO), highlighted the need to focus not just on developing new vaccines but on “the other end of the needle” – the people for whom vaccines can offer protection.
A vaccine is 0% effective if it remains in the vial, she noted, and called for evidence-based communication strategies to determine how best to engage with people who are hesitant about vaccines.
“I firmly believe that the mood is vaccine positive, but hesitant,” she said. “As the report suggests, we need to learn about that hesitancy by listening to concerns, and then developing tools that are able to analyse and monitor the responses.”
She said healthcare professionals remains a trusted source of information and advice and called for this to be reinforced so that all public health stakeholders become effective vaccine advocates.
“And of course it is imperative to engage with civil society organisations and to harness the power of people advocates,” Dr Holt said.
A life-course approach
Dr Holt called for a “life-course” approach to vaccination and highlighted the shift away from viewing immunisation as a children’s health issue.
“Children are traditionally thought of as the recipients of vaccines but we should be considering an approach that covers the whole of the life course from babyhood to healthy ageing,” she said. “This is not just a linear approach; it is an interlocking web of individuals and societal groups.”
The IPROVE Roadmap on Vaccines in Europe includes recommendations on seven key areas for the future of vaccination, including Communication on Immunisation and the Hesitancy Challenge.