Vaccine Hesitancy: Combating a ‘Wicked’ Risk Communication Problem

Presented by the Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication and the Warning Project, an international organization based in Canada that provides specialized risk communication training.

Recent outbreaks of measles, mumps and pertussis in North America–and the re-emergence of other vaccine preventable diseases–have brought the vaccination debate to the fore in Canada. This workshop will focus on the problem of vaccine hesitancy and the risk communication challenges it presents.

Our workshop will challenge participants to think seriously about why some people are resistant to vaccination, what strategies work and don’t work in improving immunization rates, and strengthening trust between the healthcare sector and public.

The professional development model for each session will focus on a presentation of the most current research, presenter-participant dialogue, simulation activities and small group discussion. Audience feedback technology will be used to maximize participant contribution and learning.


Day 1 – Vaccine Hesitancy: What is it? What do we do about it?

Morning session: The Trials and Tribulations of Vaccine Communication

 The keynote address “Celebrities, Pseudoscience and Social Media: What’s Driving Vaccine Hesitancy?”, presented by Professor Tim Caulfield, will consider the latest research in vaccine communication and discuss whether it’s time to rethink common communication strategies for combating vaccine hesitancy. Is it time to more aggressively and publicly challenge the “anti-vaxxers”? Or, do we need to better understand vaccine concerns to be more reflective and nuanced in our responses?

Keynote Speaker: Professor Timothy Caulfield is a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy and a Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta. He writes frequently for the popular press on a range of health and science policy issues and is the author of The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (Penguin 2012) and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash (Penguin 2015).

Afternoon session: Vaccine Risk Perception: A Canadian Perspective

 Led by Professor Michelle Driedger, this session will review our current understanding of Canadians who are reluctant to vaccinate themselves or their children. What are the foundations of their concerns? Do they share the same motivations? What can we say about crucial factors affecting vaccine risk perception including vaccine understanding, broader health literacy, socio-economic standing or religious and cultural background? The main purpose of this session is to develop a more complex understanding, informed by research, of the many reasons for why some people are vaccine hesitant.

Dr. S. Michelle Driedger is a Canada Research Chair in Environment and Health Risk Communication, and Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba.  Michelle’s broad areas of research interests include public and health risk communication, risk perception, and knowledge translation under conditions of uncertainty.

Day 2 — Best Practices and Emerging Strategies in Vaccine Communication

Morning session: Vaccine Communication Strategies: Alternative Options

Exploring the measles vaccine experience in Ontario, Dr. Shelley Deeks, will share her experience of this complex vaccine communication challenge and the strategies Public Health Ontario is encouraging on this and other key vaccine related issues. 

Dr. Shelley Deeks is the Medical Director of Immunization and Vaccine Preventable Diseases at Public Health Ontario and an Associate Professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. She is a member of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization and the World Health Organization’s Immunization Practices Advisory Committee.

Afternoon session: Vaccine Hesitancy in the United States: The CDC Experience

The U.S. experience in vaccine communication provides useful perspectives on the challenges we face in Canada. With a shared media landscape, the strategies and approaches employed south of the border have a direct impact on the risk perceptions of Canadians. Our final session of day 2 will be led by Allison Fisher, Health Communication Specialist, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Presenter: Allison Fisher serves as lead for the Health Communication Science Office research team at the US CDC. Since completing her Master’s of Public Health in Behavioral Science and Health Education she has worked on the front lines of vaccine communication, leading efforts to transfer research into practice and better understand knowledge, attitudes and behaviours associated with a range of vaccine based programs. Published in over 40 peer reviewed and scholarly publications, Allison is regarded as one of the United States leading research practitioners in vaccine communication.

This is an ideal workshop for anyone who is a communicator, a manager, an analyst, or an activist working in health or vaccine-based programming.

Part of what makes this model so unique is that every year the focus of the workshop will change based on the most important or critical issues of the day.

Date and time: 9:00am-5:00pm | May 13-14, 2015

Location: 1125 @ Carleton, Carleton University

Enrolment Fee: The registration fee for the seminar is $1099.00 plus HST per person. There are reduced rates available for non-profit organizations including universities ($499.00 plus HST) and students ($299.00). The registration fee includes online materials, two days of in person instruction and speakers, coffee breaks and one evening reception.

GROUP DISCOUNT: For three or more members of the same organization contact for a group discount code and receive registration for only $899.00 plus HST per person, $429.00 plus HST for non-profits including universities.

Workshop leadersDr. Joshua Greenberg and John Rainford

Registration is now closed.