Debating Trust in Vaccines

The Biovision Life Sciences Forum offers an interactive platform bringing together actors in research, innovation, partnerships and finance to debate existing and future health issues and how to address them. One of those topics is Trust in Vaccines: a Workshop on Thursday morning 6 April 2017, discussing three questions:


  1. How to reach a better understanding of vaccines? What is needed?
  2. What do we expect from new vaccines?
  3. What would improve vaccine coverage?

Actors from industry, the public sector, educators, academia, and communicators, discussed these questions, making the link to the concept of trust. Trust was said to require a foundation of knowledge as well as belief. Factors influencing knowledge touch on education and communication. On the one hand, there has never in history been such access to knowledge, yet increasingly we face false facts, and the challenge to identify truth from lie. In addition, belief is not necessarily based on knowledge and facts, yet may be more a personal choice based on views and social context.

A 1-hour debate session for a larger audience followed the workshop. Transmissible provided the debate moderation among four expert speakers on the main stage, including Dr Alain Fischer (Institute Imagine), Dr Marie-Paule Kieny (WHO), Dr David Loew (Sanofi), and Dr Cyril Schiever (MSD). Speakers agreed on the need to invest more in education and communication around vaccines (towards the public and professionals), as well as improving access to vaccines and research. Issues of debate included (legal) compulsory vaccination (may in some countries actually feed into vaccine rejection), incentives for health professionals (risks perception that doctors have financial motives for advising vaccines) and public shaming of decisions to refuse vaccines (may create social polarization, bringing us further from a shared trust).

The speakers shared awareness that the individual citizen expects more and more autonomy to decide (wants to be in charge) and wants to be well informed. This changes the classic doctor-patient relationship fundamentally. We will need to find solutions to deal with that new reality. In addition, the generation of doctors who have seen first-hand the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases will retire, and millennial doctors, who 'live online', need to be made aware of what these diseases mean in reality. Will immersive simulation games be a helpful tool in such education? Investing in research for online platforms, sharing open access health data, infection modelling and simulation tools may prove relevant to explore.

Before the debate started, Arnold Bosman posed a provocative statement: the age of experts has ended, and the age of the self-empowered citizen has begun:

The debate session can be viewed here:

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