Social Sciences and Humanities Network

Social Sciences and Humanities Network

The Social Sciences and Humanities Network (SSHN) focuses on vaccine acceptance and vaccine hesitancy (VH), linking social scientists and humanities researchers who have expertise and interest in the ethical, legal, and social implications of vaccine programs. SSHN has completed three projects.

Mapping VH in Canada was designed to provide a contextualized understanding of VH and its determinants in Canada. The project has led to a consensus definition of VH in Canada and has provided an understanding of the extent and impact of VH on Canadian vaccination programs.

VH in Canadian parents was designed to develop an instrument to measure the prevalence of VH in Canadian parents and to monitor VH online using digital detection tools. The study results demonstrate that although 85% of parents have reported that their child was fully vaccinated, about 25% held vaccine-hesitant attitudes. A Digital detection tool (the Vaccine Sentimeter) was also used to examine regional patterns of vaccine-related media topics and sentiment in the US and Canada and showed that the vast majority of reports on vaccination were positive or neutral, with most negative reports coming from blogs or other websites.

VH: a “wicked” risk communication problem examined media coverage of vaccine preventable diseases and vaccination in order to measure how well news coverage informs public understanding. The study focused on Canadian media coverage of the 2014-15 measles outbreak in Disneyland, California and found that while VH was acknowledged as a public health problem, it was generally conflated under a broader ‘anti-vaxxer’ discourse, thus obscuring important distinctions in the views and behaviours of parents as they related to vaccines.

Three SSHN projects are currently ongoing: Vaccinating pregnant women: why are maternity care providers hesitant investigates and assesses the determinants of Canadian family physicians’, obstetrician-gynaecologists’, nurses’, and midwives’ willingness to recommend and/or administer vaccines to their pregnant patients. Developing and evaluating public health messages to address VH will identify which communication strategies show promise for reducing parental VH and improving intentions to vaccinate through parent focus groups and an online experiment to test combinations of information sources (parent vs. physician) and content types (intuitive vs. deliberative). Addressing VH: pan-Canadian validation of an effective strategy will evaluate the impact of motivational interviewing (MI) on parents’ intention to vaccinate their infant in a pan-Canadian context.

Three SSHN projects will be initiated in 2017. Enhancing HPV vaccine uptake in school-based programs in Canada will allow to better understand the determinants of HPV vaccine uptake in school-based vaccination programs in Canada in order to identify promising strategies to increase HPV vaccine acceptance and uptake in schools. Identifying effective communication materials to enhance vaccine acceptance will identify and/or develop communication materials for addressing vaccine hesitancy that both follow evidence-based risk communication criteria and meet the needs and preferences of parents. Another project will be initiated in 2018. Unpacking Vaccine Hesitancy among perinatal healthcare providers: influences on beliefs and practices will explore vaccine hesitancy in healthcare providers who provide perinatal medical care and their perceptions of information interventions aimed at increasing their acceptance and promotion of vaccines for pregnant women and infants.