Commentary

medicine

Commentary: Why scientists and public health officials need to address vaccine mistrust instead of dismissing it

Recent polls indicate that more than a third of the country has concerns about a vaccine that in all likelihood will be the only reliable way to end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These results reflect a similar public sentiment in the U.S. in the 1950s when a polio vaccine was introduced. There are likely multiple reasons for this suspicion, including safety concerns, lack of transparency from the scientific community, lack of trust in the government and the desire to wait until a longer track record of safety can be established.
We are experts in media literacy, health and political communication and biostatistics and biomedical research for future health care providers, from Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow Center for Media & Health Promotion Research and the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. We also live in the communities we hope to serve with our science.
Based on our research, we believe that officials need to use this testing period to build trust, not to create reasons for diminishing it. Respect and forthrightness can turn the tone from adversarial to collaborative, and from a provider-directed practice to a shared decision-making process. Scientists and public health officials must anticipate and address people’s concerns and not brush aside concerns, a process that has become commonplace across other areas of the provider-patient relationship, but vaccine decisions remain a notable exception.
Vaccines and complications
Vaccines are among the safest, most transformative drugs on Earth, with adverse events so low that very nearly universal vaccination is a reasonable expectation. With such a safety record, and with so much at risk with diseases like COVID-19, measles and influenza, vaccine advocates have good reason to stress the overwhelmingly positive safety record.
History has included some vaccines of questionable quality as well as vaccination tactics of even more concern. Certain minority groups have been targeted with egregious coercion. This included cases of forced vaccination for smallpox of African Americans at gunpoint in the southern United States in the early 1900s. At a tenement house in Manhattan’s Little Italy, over 200 men in 1901 in essence performed a smallpox vaccination raid in the middle of the night, trying to vaccinate as many people as they could.
When the miracle vaccine for polio was widely distributed in 1955, speed took precedent over safety, and many doses were distributed that contained live polio virus. As a result, 70,000 children developed muscle weakness, 164 were paralyzed permanently and 10 children died. This led to direct government intervention that has led to thousands of required tests in order to ensure safety and effectiveness.
Instances like these undoubtedly fuel people’s concerns. Such occurrences should give us all pause, scientist or not, to do better next time and strive to never repeat such notable grievances.
Why can’t vaccines bounce back from mistakes?
As medical and public health researchers, we have found it interesting that corporations that have been lax and dishonest have bounced back without lasting damage to their reputations. For example, Volkswagen was caught in

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health

Commentary: Tackling the Twin Crises of Childhood Hunger and COVID-19 | Best Countries

The world is experiencing an overwhelming hunger epidemic made worse by the global COVID-19 pandemic. And while hunger impacts people of all ages, it devastates our most vulnerable population: children.

According to UNICEF, nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are due to undernutrition. This global crisis is too large of a problem for any one segment of society to tackle and requires the combined efforts of government, nonprofit organizations and the business community.

For decades, governments have worked independently to tackle the challenge from abroad. Nongovernmental organizations worked on shoestring budgets to help ensure food shipments were delivered and distributed, but even their efforts were consistently disrupted due to supply chain problems, corruption and government inefficiencies.

As global leaders in nutrition at Herbalife Nutrition, we are committed to doing our part to make sure no child goes without a meal, because we know how critical it is that children receive proper nutrition. The impact of hunger on children can have consequences that last a lifetime, as food insecurity is associated with delayed development in young children, behavioral problems, risk of chronic illnesses and lower academic achievement. The situation is exacerbated by the present pandemic, as the deteriorating economy has led to greater rates of unemployment and to the shuttering of schools and school meal programs.

This year will add as many as 132 million more people to the world’s food insecure population. In the United States, families with children – often woman-headed, single-parent households – are most likely to miss rent payments, lack funds for food and face unemployment. Food banks are struggling to fill the void and the demand far outstrips the supply.

Across the globe, children often get their meals at school because they do not have access to sufficient food at their homes. The World Food Program says 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, which significantly impacts their ability to learn. Meals and snacks from schools are estimated to satisfy as much as two-thirds of children’s daily nutritional needs.

This is our reality. But we don’t need to accept it. We can’t accept it.

With the number of hungry children growing each day, companies, nonprofits and governments must rise to meet this incredible challenge. Solutions are critical, and include the need to promote access and behaviors for sustainable healthy diets and addressing how to adapt global food systems to meet these needs. At Herbalife, we work with nonprofits globally to support critical programs that bridge the vast and growing food divide and raise awareness for how companies and consumers can help provide children and families access to the healthy food they need to thrive.

Through these partnerships, Nutrition for Zero Hunger has made nearly 700,000 nutritious meals available to children and families, delivered more than 500,000 servings of donated products and 3,500 pounds of food to families in need, helped provide close to 48,000 women with breastfeeding and nutrition education, and supplied 40,0000 children with essential

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