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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Public Confidence in Healthcare

BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh advises How not to run an immunisation campaign.

It seems that there has been a failure of planning by the German government. As a result of different government departments making their purchases without coordinating - an innocent planning error, according to a government spokesman - two different vaccines are being distributed. Government officials and the armed forces are getting Celvapan, while the general public will receive Pandemrix.

People have a tendency to read deeper meaning into such differences, especially in the absence of trust. (Indeed, even random differences can cause suspicion, which in turn can undermine trust.) In this case, the difference in vaccines has led to complaints of a two-tier health service. Some politicians (including Angela Merkel) have announced their intention to have Pandemrix instead of Celvapan, just like they were ordinary German citizens.

Fergus sums up as follows:
'The row in Germany is a reminder of how easy it is to undermine public confidence in healthcare. Ministers and officials need to ask themselves, "what might people think?" with any decision they make.'

This example reinforces my belief in the importance of paying attention to Meaning.

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