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Christopher L. Cummings, Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (link)
Vaccines are among the most effective disease prevention tools. Vaccines provide first-line disease prevention and are one of the most cost-effective initiatives to improve public health. While virtually all medical practitioners agree that vaccines are greatly beneficial, there are widespread reports of uncertainty and skepticism regarding vaccine efficacy, side effects, and information needs across traditional and new media. This reflects the obfuscated perspective held by many members of the public who note considerable concern when it comes to making immunization decisions. Additionally, immunization rates remain substandard for many diseases around the world and the literature investigating vaccine reluctance signals a pressing need to improve health literacies and health communication in order to dispel vaccine myths and promote immunization uptake around the world.
This presentation reviews new findings from a large cross-national study of Singaporean and American respondents which evaluates factors that influence individual’s perceptions of novel vaccines aimed to eradicate Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, Cholera, and Bacterial Meningitis. Results show that different basic forms of traditional risk communication messaging may inadvertently promote anti-vaccine attitudes among the public, and in some instances, may allow for misperceptions that the vaccine itself causes people to become ill from the targeted disease. Findings support a nuanced understanding of how traditional risk communication rubrics may be inadequate in the modern era, and provides guidance for practitioners about forms of communication likely to diminish the likelihood of public misperceptions.
Dr. Cummings, an NC State alum (’13, PhD Communication and Rhetoric), currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His research crosses several domains including science, health, environmental, and risk communication (ComSHER), public understanding of science, communication campaign design and evaluation, and policy development for emerging technologies. Currently, Dr. Cummings is investigating how experts and members of the public come to make sense of uncertain and complex risk and health issues while unpacking how different forms of communication play critical roles in influencing decision-making processes. His current grants aim to improve understanding of vaccine attitudes in Singapore and abroad, and his most recent award titled “‘SynBio & Singapore’: convergent research cases to prioritize public engagement and promote policy-making” will promote dialogue and policy development relevant to Synthetic Biology applications including genetically engineered mosquitoes for disease control, novel vaccine production methods for improved response during epidemics, and engineered microbes for improved crop production.