COMMUNICATING RESEARCH. Vaccines have been extremely important for humanity. They prevent millions of children from dying annually and have eliminated certain diseases. At the same time, opposition to and hesitancy about vaccines is one of the major global threats to public health. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has now produced a publication on vaccines, the first in its “The Science Behind” series. Its author is Ann-Marie Svennerholm, member of the Academy and a professor at the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Gothenburg.
The publication Vetenskapen säger om vaccin [The Science Behind Vaccines] was written together with members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences who possess a wide range of knowledge in the field. The idea was initiated a few years ago but gained new relevance with the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive global vaccination effort.
“We want to try to explain how important vaccines have been for public health both in Sweden and globally and the incredible benefits they offer,” according to Ann-Marie Svennerholm.
Paradoxically, one reason why some people are afraid of being vaccinated, what research calls vaccine hesitancy, may be their efficacy. Through vaccination, we have had the opportunity to prevent and forget about many difficult diseases that were common in the past, such as measles, diphtheria, and polio.
“Younger people have barely heard of these diseases and don’t know how dangerous they were. Of course, vaccines can have side effects, but the benefits must always be weighed against the risk. And the benefits are almost always so much greater. If you had caught the disease instead, it would have been nearly always much worse than potential side effects of the vaccine,” says Svennerholm.
Should not be neglected
She explains that some peoples’ fear of disease has been replaced by the fear of vaccination. And that fear should not be discounted. It must be addressed with fact-based information.
“There are many people who are hesitant and concerned, so it is important to explain the benefits of vaccines in a factual way.”
Vaccines are hugely beneficial both to the individual, who is protected from the disease, and to the population as a whole by reducing the spread of infection because many are immune.
A rigorous process
Svennerholm also emphasizes that all vaccines go through a rigorous process before they are approved. This also applies to the vaccines currently being used against COVID-19.
“They are tested extremely carefully, first in animal experiments and then in several phases on many thousands of people before approval. What has happened now is that certain phases of the process have been allowed to overlap to ensure vaccination approval is completed quickly, but there has been no compromise on the full implementation of each phase.”
Vetenskapen säger om vaccin is the first publication in a series of popular science publications from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which is being disseminated with the support of the foundation Stiftelsen Natur & Kultur. It will be followed by a publication about human evolution and one on climate change. The project was initiated by Academy President Dan Larhammar:
“We are doing this to provide information about important and current topics, especially those where there is a lot of new knowledge to pass on. The Academy of Sciences has a long tradition of providing information to the general public dating back to Linnaeus, and this is a tradition we would like to continue.”
So far, the publication is available for download only and only in Swedish. You can read it here: Vetenskapen säger om vaccin
BY: THE ROYAL SWEDISH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES