Background: During the summer of 2013, after samples of poliomyelitis virus were found in sewage, Israel launched an intensive national oral polio vaccine (OPV) campaign. The clinical objective of the campaign was rather clear. With not a single case of infantile paralysis and with a population already highly protected with IPV (a dead version of the vaccine), the goal was to foster collective immunity so that risk populations could also be protected. This, however, entailed a rather unusual issue: how to persuade parents whose children already received an IPV to re-vaccinate their children, now with a live yet attenuated version of the virus that was excluded from the national vaccination program in 2004. The challenge therefore was a call for social solidarity - asking parents to vaccinate their children mainly for the sake of protecting unknown at risk populations and to take part in the larger global goals of the polio eradication program. This challenge stands at the core of our investigation. We see the OPV campaign of summer 2013 as a good case study of the tension between individualism and social solidarity in seeking the cooperation of the public. Methods: We draw on a qualitative study that included participant observation, document reviews and interviews with policy-makers, parents, journalists, public health experts and community leaders. These data were analyzed in order to unravel the ways in which self-interest, community and solidarity were conceived by different agents during the vaccination campaign. Results: The family as a metaphor for social solidarity was the main discursive item in the public campaign. Tensions, dissonances and inconsistencies were found between different registers and agencies as to what is at stake and what is required. Conclusions: We discuss the ethical and social implications of our findings in order to better understand how persuasion was used in the current case and for its future role in similar events, within and outside Israel, when global efforts to eradicate polio are ongoing.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health