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Risk Communication and Public Health$
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Peter Bennett, Kenneth Calman, Sarah Curtis, and Denis Fischbacher-Smith

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199562848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199562848.001.0001

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Risk Communication in the British Pertussis and MMR Vaccine Controversies

Risk Communication in the British Pertussis and MMR Vaccine Controversies

(p.129) Chapter 9 Risk Communication in the British Pertussis and MMR Vaccine Controversies
Risk Communication and Public Health

Rachel Casiday

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines and compares two vaccination controversies from recent decades: the safety of whole-cell pertussis vaccine in the 1970s and 1980s, and the more recent controversy about the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine from 1997 onwards. Both of these controversies emerged in Britain with the publication of case reports of alleged paediatric neurological damage following immunization. Both were propelled by parental advocacy groups and legal actions on behalf of the affected children. And both resulted in diminished confidence in the vaccine in question and, more generally, in the state-sponsored public health system. This final aspect prompted widespread public health concern in both cases about under-immunization in the population, and about ways to improve risk communication and public confidence. A critical evaluation of the points of convergence and divergence between these two controversies is necessary to improve our understanding of why controversies about particular vaccines emerge, even when the bulk of scientific evidence points to their safety and utility, and will help develop effective risk communication strategies for the vaccine controversies that will surely arise in the future.

Keywords:   vaccination, public health, pertussis vaccine, MMR vaccine, immunization

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