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Careful Language Needed To Communicate Possible Efficacy, Experimental Status Of Ebola Vaccine

Al Jazeera: Why we should be cautious about the ‘game-changer’ Ebola vaccine
Adia Benton, assistant professor at Northwestern University

“…Most media coverage about the [experimental Ebola] vaccine’s deployment to the [West Africa] region has been triumphalist, referring to the vaccine as a ‘game-changer’ and ‘a paradigm shift.’ But these reports should be viewed with caution. … The introduction of this experimental Ebola vaccine — whatever its efficacy and potential risks — will inevitably shape the landscape of care and communities’ trust of the health system, more generally. … Perhaps health officials have too narrowly focused on the ‘game changer’ potential of the vaccine to a vaguely defined audience in the West, with too little recognition that these triumphalist messages also travel and circulate in the very places where they work. They starkly contrast with the messages that need to be communicated to the communities facing an imminent threat from Ebola. That is: this vaccine is likely highly effective in the current formulation, but this element is still under investigation; only close contacts will receive the vaccination; and it is possible that some people will fall ill after they have been vaccinated…” (5/30).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.