Despite Australian horse owners being encouraged to vaccinate their horses against Hendra virus to reduce the risk to horses and humans, uptake has been slow. Discourse around the vaccine has been characterised by polarisation and dissenting voices across stakeholders. This has resulted in animal welfare issues for horse owners unable to access veterinary care and has contributed to professional and personal stress for veterinary surgeons.
In this study we interviewed Australian horse owners who had elected not to vaccinate their animals (N=15) and equine veterinarians (N=10), all located in areas of previous Hendra virus cases. Our results revealed how expert knowledge was identified and valued and by whom, and how this contributed to the divisive discourses. Disqualification by institutional and industry experts of lay knowledge and experience also played a role in creating barriers to progressive and inclusive discussions around risk mitigation. Inadequate handling of uncertainty, including the opacity of the vaccine development and registration process, and the handling of vaccine injury reports contributed to the polarisation of communications around Hendra virus and the vaccine.
We assert that examination of how experts are trained must be undertaken. By including explicit training in inclusive and reflective risk communication practices, experts will be better prepared for their role as science communicators. This will contribute to the acknowledgement of legitimacy of diverse knowledge sources and the inevitability of uncertainty, which will enhance future communications around management of infectious diseases.
Jennifer Manyweathers, Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Biosecurity, Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Charles Sturt University and NSW Department of Primary Industry
Mel Taylor, Macquarie University
Nancy Longnecker, Otago University, New Zealand
When: In session Wednesday 19th February, 9:30am-10:30am
Where: Room G01, Learning and Teaching Building, 19 Ancora Imparo Way, Clayton