When It Comes to FDA Communications

When It Comes to FDA Communications

Perhaps the most important lesson learned from the COVID-19 experience is that American health illiteracy kills. From confusion over the value of wearing protective masks and social distancing (How are viruses transmitted?) to vaccine skepticism (How do vaccines work?), from confusion over the value of hydroxychloroquine (How are data collected and what do they mean?) to doubts about the safety and efficacy of products available through Emergency Use Authorizations (How does the US Food and Drug Administration review process work?), the dearth of health literacy has not only slowed down the US response against COVID-19, it has placed thorny societal problems along the path to victory over the virus. Nature abhors a vacuum—and so does social media.

To restore faith in our public health agencies, and therefore trust in science and vaccines, we must rebuild confidence in vaccines and promote the advances we have made (through the processes and data that support those claims) as well as in the process used to develop, approve, and label, and recommend vaccines for targeted populations. Battling vaccine hesitancy and misinformation is a critical public health challenge that goes beyond just COVID-19. Efforts to reverse the sharp and partisan divides over evidence-based recommendations and the scientific method that support such recommendations must be rigorous, clear, and transparent. This will be difficult and take a long time. But it’s worth it.

Let’s face it, whether it’s harsh truths about climate change or the merits of vaccines against Covid-19, influenza, and childhood illnesses, it’s science — regularly, honestly, and clearly explained — that is sanity’s ultimate home-field advantage.

That’s why the Reagan/Udall Foundation’s new report, “Strategies for Improving Public Understanding of FDA-Regulated Products,” (aka, “How the FDA can win the Information War”) is must reading Why? Because it’s honest. It’s not the beginning of the end. It may not even be the end of the beginning. But it’s a start – warts and all.

 
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