Why won’t they just vaccinate? An infectious disease risk communication workshop based on a story about a virus, a vaccine and fear

Author: Jennifer Manyweathers – Graham Centre for Agricultural innovation (Charles Sturt University and NSW Department of Primary Industries), Australia

Nancy Longnecker – Otago University, Australia
Jennifer Manyweathers – Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation/Charles Sturt University, Australia
Mel Taylor – Macquarie University, Australia

As new disease threats continue to emerge, the creation 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 and can result in outbreaks of increased severity and duration, wasted resources, and lost opportunities for participatory risk mitigation planning and discussion.

This workshop, based on the story of an actual emerging infectious disease outbreak spreading from animals to humans in Australia, 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 risk.

Using real data and dialogue, workshop participants will be divided into stakeholder groups, including the scientists who develop the protective vaccine, the pharmaceutical company that manufacture it, vets who administer the vaccine and animal owners deciding whether or not to vaccinate their animals. As the disease outbreak story unfolds, stakeholders will be given more information and required to make key decisions, while deliberating on communication approaches. The workshop concludes with an opportunity for discussion around risk communication and an overview of the key stages of the outbreak story.

While the unfolding story closely follows an emerging, infectious, animal-origin disease outbreak, the principles considered will be applicable to any discourse around risk and mitigation and will broaden participants’ understanding of possible approaches to risk communication.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Workshop
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices