Public Health Ontario’s (PHO) experts shape provincial, national and international policy through research and evidence contributions and by serving as members of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and several committees of the World Health Organization. In a recent commentary in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, “Inoculating communities against vaccine scare stories,” Natasha Crowcroft, PHO’s Chief of Infectious Diseases, and co-author Kwame McKenzie, Medical Director, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, argue that the biggest threat facing the success of immunization may be news and social media reports that undermine safety and reduce confidence in vaccines. “Although expertise on how to respond to vaccine safety events is growing and good guidance is available, we are not yet winning enough hearts and minds. We have much to learn from anti-vaccine campaigners who make good use of engaging narrative and social media to achieve their ends.”
Crowcroft and McKenzie say: “It is time to move beyond passive reaction to (vaccine) safety events and time to find out how to prepare communities to be resilient in the face of bad science and interest-driven scare stories. We need to change public ideas and norms, increase engagement and knowledge, and promote belief in vaccines.”
This commentary and its call to informed decisions are only one PHO action in the area of immunization. Our upcoming third Vaccine Sciences Symposium picks up on issues raised in the Lancet article, as it focuses on provincial immunization program evaluation and research in Ontario. The Symposium will address the challenges of pertussis (day one) and hesitancy and vaccine confidence in an age of zero risk tolerance (day two). The event aims to bring clarity to a complex and controversial public health concern. The call for abstracts has been posted.
PHO contributes to the body of evidence on immunization though both synthesis and recommendations about existing knowledge and generation of original peer-reviewed evidence, such as:
Herpes Zoster Vaccine: Options for Consideration (February 2013)
Follow-up report on PIDAC-I recommendations for Ontario’s adult pertussis vaccine program (October 2012)
Additional recent immunization articles by PHO scientists include:
“The risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome following seasonal influenza vaccination and influenza healthcare encounters, a self-controlled study,” by Kwong JC, Vasa P, Campitelli MA, Hawken S, Wilson K, Rosella LC, Stukel TA, Crowcroft NS, McGeer AJ, Zinman L, Deeks SL. Lancet Infectious Diseases. June 28, 2013.
“Seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness in pre- and full-term children aged 6-23 months over multiple seasons,” by Shen S, Campitelli MA, Calzavara A, Guttmann A and Kwong JC. Vaccine. In Press, Corrected Proof available online May 18, 2013.
“Controlling serogroup B invasive meningococcal disease: The Canadian perspective,” by Bettinger JA, Deeks SL, Halperin SA, Tsang R, Scheifele DW. Expert Review of Vaccines. May 2013.
“Have changing pneumococcal vaccination programs impacted disease in Ontario?” by Lima GH, Wormsbecker AE, McGeer A, Pillai DR, Gubbay JB, Rudnick W, Low DE, Greene, K, Crowcroft NS, Deeks SL. Vaccine. May 31, 2013.
“Measuring influenza immunization coverage among health care workers in acute care hospitals and continuing care organizations in Canada,” Quach S, Pereira JA, Hamid JS, Crowe L, Heidebrecht CL, Kwong, JC, Guay M, Crowcroft NS, McGeer A, Chambers LW, Quan SD, Bettinger JA. American Journal of Infection Control. April 2013.
“Predicting influenza vaccination uptake among health care workers: What are the key motivators? ” by Corace K, Prematunge C, NcCarthy A, Naur RC, Roth V, Hayes T, Suh KN, Balfour L, Garber G. American Journal of Infection Control. In Press, Corrected Proof available online March 25, 2013.
“Coverage from Ontario, Canada’s School-based HPV Vaccine Program: The First Three Years,” by Wilson SE, Harris T, Sethi P, Fediurek J, Macdonald L, Deeks SL. Vaccine. January 21, 2013.
These research activities are a complement to PHO’s daily guidance and support to local public health units across Ontario in planning and delivering optimal immunization programs, identifying and managing outbreaks and responding to adverse events. Such ongoing support is offered by our immunization and vaccine-preventable disease team (see photo above).