Public Vaccine Education Campaign: Enhancing Our Community’s Understanding of the Importance of Vaccines and the Diseases They Prevent
Vaccines are a victim of their own success. If you think about it, as a whole, other than safe drinking water, vaccines have prevented more deaths than any other prevention method in existence. Before vaccines and improvements in hygiene, infectious diseases would wipe out entire families at a time. Most people alive in the U.S. today do not remember when thousands of children died or were permanently disabled due to polio, measles, diphtheria, and smallpox infections. Vaccines have been so successful at preventing these diseases, and with multiple generations of people receiving their vaccinations, keeping the outbreaks at bay, that today they are sometimes seen as unnecessary. This is not the case as it takes a certain number of vaccinated persons in a population to confer protection from disease to the entire community. That phenomenon is referred to as herd immunity, meaning that for most diseases there is a certain threshold number of unvaccinated individuals who can exist in a geographic location that can remain protected by those in the community who have been immunized and are themselves protected against contracting (and spreading) the disease. The problem arises when the numbers of unvaccinated individuals (compared to vaccinated individuals) increase past that threshold number and become susceptible to contracting the disease.
Anti-vaccination campaigns and misinformation about the safety and efficacy of vaccines have led to a decline in the immunization rates in many states over the past five years. With multiple websites (and some health professionals and celebrities) informing parents that vaccines are responsible for impairments such as autism and attention-deficit disorder, it is confusing for parents to know what is best for their child. There seems to be a gap between the scientific data obtained on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and the information that is relayed to the public. We are proposing to address this gap by initiating a public vaccine education campaign locally in Galveston County and expanding it to include Texas and National media.
We propose to inform the community about the importance of vaccines in order to increase vaccination rates. Vaccination rates are falling in the U.S. due to a variety of factors including misconceptions about vaccine safety necessity. Once vaccination rates fall below a threshold value for a particular disease, that community is much more susceptible to disease outbreaks. We think that rates of immunization will increase in communities that have been educated about vaccines and are given a chance to ask questions about them. We plan to address this need by creating podcasts, videos, newspaper and magazine articles and a public education website that provide information about specific diseases and vaccines that prevent them. Our initial target population will include residents of Galveston County but will be expanded to include state and national individuals as well. The success of this project will be assessed every 6 months by tracking the number of views for each source of media and by administering surveys before and after the community activity/presentations.
This project has been funded by a generous award from UTMB's President’s Cabinet.
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