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Photo Credit: Stefania Galluccio @mystoo
912 - 11/14/2020 5:31:53 PM  

University of Guelph Expert Alert: Now Is the Time to Prepare the Public for COVID-19 Vaccine

[ Above Photo: Prof. Maya Goldenberg ]

For Immediate Release: November 2, 2020

With several COVID-19 vaccine candidates now in final Phase 3 testing, and countries beginning to prepare for the logistics of distributing vaccines as early as this spring, a University of Guelph professor who specializes in vaccine hesitancy says now is the time for public health officials to prepare the public for the vaccine.

Prof. Maya Goldenberg, Department of Philosophy, has long examined why some people become wary of medicine or science, or are hesitant to accept vaccines.

She said health leaders should begin discussing vaccines with the public now, before citizens face the decision about whether to get the shot.

“Even a really effective vaccine could fail upon delivery if people don’t want it,” she said. “A moderately effective vaccine, which is likely to be the case for COVID-19, may earn low public uptake, as is the case with seasonal influenza vaccines. The public needs honest and clear messaging about the efficacy and safety of any vaccine, and what it offers in terms of personal and community protection.”

The chair of the vaccine taskforce in the U.K. recently warned in a commentary in The Lancet medical journal that the first generation of COVID-19 vaccines “is likely to be imperfect” and “might not work for everyone.”

Goldenberg said it’s important for public health officials to be transparent about how vaccines are developed.

“The rapid development of COVID-19 vaccine candidates has been scientifically and logistically impressive. But members of the public are reasonably concerned that safety measures may be sidestepped in this ‘warp speed’ race for a vaccine. We need to know that public safety was not compromised.”

The first vaccines may also come with side effects, which public health officials should begin to discuss with the public, particularly if the vaccine requires users to return for a second shot.

Goldenberg specializes in the philosophy of science and medicine. Her book Vaccine Hesitancy: Public Trust, Expertise, and the War on Science will be released in spring 2021.

She recently spoke to the Mercury News in the U.S. about why growing distrust in government is fuelling hesitancy about a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s not anti-science that’s driving it. Instead, it’s questioning the integrity of the scientific research. It’s a socio-political issue,” she said.


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