EuroHealthNet, in collaboration with the RIVER-EU project, hosted a dynamic session on vaccine hesitancy and its underlying factors on September 27, 2023, during the European Health Forum Gastein (EHFG) 2023 conference.
The event aimed to reveal the broader health determinants influencing vaccine choices and challenge the misconception that vaccine hesitancy is the sole driver of unequal vaccine coverage in Europe.
Dr. Mira Jovanovski Dašić, Head of the SEEHN Secretariat, with other prominent speakers Prof Danielle Jansen, Associate Professor at the University Medical Center Groningen, Dr Angelo Fasce, Research Fellow at the University of Coimbra, and Ms Caroline Bollars, Senior Advisor at WHO Europe, contributed to this exciting session. Ms Alison Maassen, Programme Manager at EuroHealthNet, moderated skilfully the discussion. Additionally a Young Gasteiner, Ms Lina Papartyte, provided support at the News Desk.
In a compelling address, Dr. Dašić highlighted the following key points:
- Impact of Misinformation: Dr Dasic emphasized the detrimental effect of misinformation on vaccine hesitancy, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. SEEHN responded by promoting accurate information and debunking falsehoods.
- SEEHN’s Role as a Peace-builder: Dr. Dasic discussed SEEHN’s genesis as a peace-building tool in post-conflict Balkan states. Health, as a human right, facilitated communication and collaboration among member states, even during distrust and limited resources. High vaccination rates were maintained due to mandatory schedules and trust in locally produced vaccines.
- Evolution of Vaccine Discourse: Dr. Dasic noted the changing vaccine narrative from her experience supervising school vaccination programs between 1990 and 2000. Trust in healthcare workers, mandatory vaccination, and a lack of anti-vaccination groups contributed to high vaccination rates. Today, unified messaging from experts is essential for achieving adequate vaccine coverage.
This event fostered dialogue on vaccine uptake barriers and systemic changes for equitable vaccine services. The insights shared will further efforts to enhance vaccine coverage and public health across Europe.