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Strategies to overcome the public's fear of vaccinations

09 May 2019
Volume 28 · Issue 9


Emeritus Professor Alan Glasper, University of Southampton, reflects on media coverage of the use of vaccines and discusses a range of initiatives to address public fears around immunisation through vaccination

Ivividly remember caring for an infant with whooping cough while a student nurse in 1974. There is perhaps nothing worse in clinical nursing than seeing a child becoming more and more cyanosed and coughing and coughing until, at the point of death itself, taking a large breath and producing the fearsome whooping sound—something I never want to encounter again!

Concerns about the side effects of the pertussis vaccine in the 1970s and 1980s followed the publication of a series of clinical cases in 1974 that suggested an association between the vaccine and neurological complications. This led to a dramatic fall in vaccination uptake, which in turn caused an epidemic of the disease. During that 1974 pertussis outbreak in England and Wales there were 25 deaths among the total 25 135 whooping cough notifications (Pollock et al, 1984). Subsequent studies rejected any link between the vaccine and severe neurological diseases (Gasparini et al, 2015).

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