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The Art and Science of Immunization

The Art and Science of Immunization

Immunization is one of the great successes of modern medicine, saving millions of lives every year. Its success is built through the activities of dedicated scientists, clinicians, public health workers, and policy makers working in different disciplines and spanning a range of diverse organizations. Yet the success of immunization programs in Canada and beyond relies not only on the activities of scientists, policy makers, and clinicians, but also on the assumed confidence and voluntary participation of the public. Decades of accumulated scientific evidence support its safety and effectiveness, and yet surveys have shown that the Canadian public is not confident in the scientific basis of immunization, a perplexing finding with growing traction throughout the developed world. This latter phenomenon, which describes a public less convinced of the role of vaccines, or the perception that vaccines are becoming less safe, has been termed “Vaccine Hesitancy” by the World Health Organization (WHO), and is an emerging domain in health research. In spite of the urgent threat to public health posed by vaccine hesitancy (look no further than Toronto’s 2015 measles outbreak), it remains unclear which interventions might be effective to address vaccine hesitancy. Indeed, some intervention approaches we use are now known to be ineffective or even harmful. Just as issues like patient non-compliance are now understood to involve non-medical contextual factors, so must thorough investigations of vaccine hesitancy engage multiple perspectives outside of medicine as well (see, for example, the Gates Foundation’s The Art of Saving a Life initiative, or the pivotal role of anthropologists in supporting the design and culturally-appropriate roll-out of Ebola vaccine trials in west Africa). The aim of our Working Group, “The Art and Science of Immunization,” is to foster rich interdisciplinary collaboration between an international roster of students (graduate and undergraduate), postdoctoral fellows, and scholars, with the aim of generating new thought and action on the major challenges facing immunization today, namely: the enhancement of communication about immunization and concrete, humanistically-inspired solutions to the urgent issue of vaccine hesitancy. 

Leads
Andrea Charise, UTSC Health Studies
Barbara Fallon, Faculty of Social Work
Natasha Crowcroft, School of Public Health

Faculty at University of Toronto

Shelley Deeks, School of Public Health
Shelly Bolotin, School of Public Health
Alison Thompson, Faculty of Pharmacy
Tanya Watts, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Dept. of Immunology
Peter Newman, Faculty of Social Work
Suzanne Sicchia, UTSC Health Studies
Shelley Wall, UTM Biology
 
Faculty at Other Universities
Colleen Derkatsch, English & Rhetoric, Ryerson University
Natalie Loveless, Visual & Performing Arts, University of Alberta
Eve Dube, Anthropology, Laval University

Graduate Students at University of Toronto

Kate Allen, Faculty of Social Work
Robert Laurella, English
Stefan Krescy, English
Katherine Shwetz, English
Maria Espinoza, Public Health
Abdool Yasseen, Public Health
 
Undergraduate Student at University of Toronto
Fahmeeda Murtaza, UTSC Health Studies
 
Graduate Students at Other Universities

Alison Humphrey, Cinema & Media Studies, York University
 
Community Member

Heidi Larson, Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine


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