PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Why won’t they just vaccinate?
An emerging infectious disease risk communication workshop

Jennifer Manyweathers  

Why won't they just vaccinate? An emerging infectious disease risk communication workshop J. Manyweathers1,2, N. Longnecker2,3, M. Taylor1,4 1 Centre for Health Research, Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia 2 Centre for Science Communication, Faculty of Animal Biology, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia 3 Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand 4 Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia As new disease threats continue to emerge, the adoption of risk mitigation strategies relies on clear, timely and proactive communication. The problem is that discourse between various publics and authorities can become mired in distrust. Distrust can result in outbreaks of increased severity and duration, as well as wasted resources, and lost opportunities for participatory risk mitigation planning and discussion. This workshop, based on an actual emerging infectious disease outbreak spreading from animals to humans, will examine differing worldviews of the stakeholders involved in the discourse, and provide a platform for discussion of the role of risk perception and authority in situations of threat. Using real data and dialogue, the workshop participants will be divided into 5 stakeholder groups: the scientists who develop the protective vaccine, the pharmaceutical company that manufacture it, vets who administer the vaccine, animal owners who elect to vaccinate their animals and those who elect not to. As we advance through the disease outbreak scenario, the stakeholders will be given progressively more information and will be required to make key decisions and to deliberate on communication approaches. The workshop will conclude with a brief summary of the key stages of the communication surrounding the actual disease outbreak on which the workshop is based and time will be allowed for feedback and discussion. While this workshop closely follows an emerging, infectious, animal-origin disease outbreak, the principles considered will be applicable to any discourse around risk and risk mitigation and will broaden participants' understanding of possible approaches to risk communication.

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