By Vince Blaser, Director, Immunization Advocates
As Honduran President and COVID-19 survivor Juan Orlando Hernández got his turn in the virtual queue of world leaders speaking at the United Nations General Assembly last month, he posed a simple question to his fellow world leaders, “Are people to be left to die?”
Hernández was advocating for global solidarity for equitable access to a future potential COVID-19 vaccine. His country and dozens of others around the world have not only felt a heavy direct impact from COVID-19 infections, the residual effects of delayed or cancelled immunization campaigns and other public health measures have also led to rising rates of other diseases, exacerbating the severe toll the pandemic has had on communities around the world.
Complicating matters for public health leaders is growing evidence of waning vaccine acceptance and demand, a worrying trend documented before the COVID-19 pandemic that has been furthered by the spread of misinformation and disinformation about vaccines.
Consistently cited as one of the major factors in this trend is many communities’ declining trust in the information presented to them. The rise in misinformation and disinformation has undoubtedly made it more difficult for traditional community gatekeepers of public health information – health workers and journalists – to provide their communities with up-to-date, accurate and fact-based information on vaccines and immunization.
This trend drove the Sabin Vaccine Institute to launch our Immunization Advocates program, which supports journalists, health workers, and policymakers and influencers worldwide with the resources and connections needed to communicate and report accurately on immunization. This week we have launched our new Resource Hubs for health workers and for journalists, providing a suite of trusted sources, tools and learning opportunities to assist these gatekeepers of health information in delivering trusted information to their communities.
Navigating our Resource Hubs
For journalists, covering vaccines and immunization – whether it the development and distribution plans of a COVID-19 vaccine, halts or delays to routine immunization programs, or the rise in misinformation and disinformation about vaccines – requires foundational knowledge of how vaccines and the immunization system work, authoritative sources and trusted resources.
Through our Journalist Resource Hub on Vaccines and Immunization you can:
Use Sabin’s Find an Expert Tool: Sabin has curated independent experts on vaccines and immunization from more than 10 countries around the world who have agreed to respond to reporters’ inquiries. Search by country, language, or area of expertise and utilize this online tool to connect with experts.
Brush up on your Vaccine IQ: The immune system and how vaccines work, why they are important for community immunity to diseases, and how they are developed, tested and regulated can be complex topics. Sabin experts break these concepts down in short videos and infographics in our Vaccine IQ series.
Access learning resources from trusted authorities: From a public health reporting course from UNICEF, to a COVID-19 vaccine development tracker from The New York Times, to infographics and op-eds from Sabin experts, the Hub provides a trove of resources to backstop reporters working on stories on vaccines and immunization.
Read examples of strong explanatory journalism: Journalists during the COVID-19 pandemic have put out some amazing pieces breaking down the complexity of vaccines and immunization and issues of vaccine acceptance and demand. We will continue to highlight exemplary examples in our Hub.
Health workers and our partners around the world have communicated a need not only for learning opportunities to deepen their clinical understanding of vaccines and immunization, but also resources to help them understand and better communicate to their patients about the benefits of immunization, and advocate on the importance of addressing vaccine acceptance and demand issues.
Our Health Workers Hub on Vaccines and Immunization includes:
Take Sabin’s online course Vaccines and Immunization: The Fundamentals: This two-part, self-paced online course is designed to assist health workers in reviewing the fundamental aspects of vaccines and immunization, including manufacturing and quality assurance practices, clinical immunization practices and barriers to achieving optimal vaccine coverage. The course – available in English and Russian and coming soon in Spanish – was developed by independent expert faculty at universities in the Americas and Eastern Europe.
Authoritative resources to help counter misinformation, navigate the latest policies and regulations and communicate on the health and economic benefits of vaccines and immunization: From a slide kit from Sabin to help counter misinformation, to videos from immunization professionals, to fresh guidelines and policies from global and regional public health authorities – bookmarking the Hub assists health workers in keeping up with the latest so they can accurately contextualize this information for their communities.
Ways to join and engage with the immunization provider community on Boost: Thousands of health workers and other immunization professionals around the world have already joined Boost to connect with peers and experts, learn skills that build capacity and advance careers, and lead immunization programs in challenging and changing contexts.
We must collectively ensure accurate and timely information on vaccines needed to both address the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent a backslide on the tremendous progress in global health outcomes driven by immunization.
These Hubs are one step in that process, and will be updated periodically to continue to serve as starting points for health workers and journalists communicating or reporting on vaccines and immunization. Please share your ideas and feedback.