Hicar Authors Book Chapter on Vaccine Hesitancy Issue – Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Mark D. Hicar, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases, wrote a chapter titled “The Vaccine, Public Trust, and Doubt” in the book “Playing With Reality: Denying, Manipulating, Converting, and Improve what is there.

The book features an international team of contributors exploring the question of how and why, in dealing with what is there in front of us, we play with reality using theatre, fiction, words, conspiracy theories, realities alternatives, scenarios and the art itself.

Hicar’s chapter explores the question of why some are reluctant to accept vaccination.

To provide answers, he first recounts the influence of the vaccine on society, the evolution of vaccine safety surveillance, the vaccine injury compensation program, then “the reluctance to vaccination”, the current public distrust of vaccination programs.

Hicar presents his discussion as a clash between “individualism,” where opposition to COVID-19 inoculation becomes a matter of personal belief, versus a “collectivist” acceptance of vaccination bolstered by facts such as advanced by the scientific community.

“Mass vaccination is arguably the greatest public health achievement of the 20e century,” says Hicar. “Unfortunately, public confidence in this intervention has slowly eroded.”

Vaccine acceptance has been undermined by vaccine success, Hicar notes.

“The plagues of the past are usually historical footnotes,” he says. “The collective mind has forgotten that about a third of children born in the 1800s never reached adulthood.”

Hicar says the current pandemic offers a number of examples of balancing side effect profiles with public health needs.

“With COVID-19 vaccines, there are certain risks, but they are tiny compared to the risk of natural infection,” he says.

“Millions of man-hours of labor go into researching, developing and testing each vaccine before it is used in an emergency or is fully approved for public use; they are not products peddled in late-night infomercials or on the back of suspicious flyers,” adds Hicar.

Curiously, collectivism versus individualism in society is fluid and can be driven by shared experience, such as a pandemic, Hicar points out.

“Translating the scientific facts into a real-world experience that vaccine hesitants can relate to and the personalization of the decision can result in some resisting individualists,” he says. “A silver lining to this pandemic is that this shared experience can help swing the pendulum back toward societal collectivism and ultimately improve societal acceptance of vaccines.”

Hicar’s current studies focused on using the immune response to infections to inform improved vaccination strategies have led to numerous scientific technical publications and novel vaccine constructs.

His work was supported by the Infectious Diseases Society of America Education and Research Foundation and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases Wyeth Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development and funding from the National Institutes of Health.

“Playing with Reality: Denying, Manipulating, Converting, and Enhancing What’s There,” is edited by Sidney Homan, PhD, professor of English at the University of Florida, and is published by Taylor & Francis Group.

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