The term social vaccine has been suggested as a new term to be adopted by the health promotion and health policy community ‘to encourage the bio-medically orientated health sector to recognize legitimacy of action on the distal social, economic and determinants of health. Social vaccine would be promoted as a means to encourage popular mobilization and advocacy to change the social and economic structural conditions that render people and communities vulnerable to disease’ (1, 2). There is urgent need to increase policy and health systems research on these larger social, economic, political and cultural parameters that influence health and social change. Social vaccines require more research to improve our understanding of the social and political processes likely to improve health equity worldwide. Compared with the resources invested in researching vaccines for just a single disease, the investment in research relevant to providing evidence for and testing social vaccine has been minimal (3).
Two definitions have been evolved to try and build this metaphor further.
- A social vaccine can be defined as, ‘actions that address social determinants and social inequities in society, which act as a precursor to the public health problem being addressed’. While the social vaccine cannot be specific to any disease or problem, it can be adapted as an intervention for any public health response. The aim of the social vaccine is to promote equity and social justice that will inoculate the society through action social determinants of health’ (4).
- “The term 'social vaccine' is designed to encourage the biomedically orientated health sector to recognize the legitimacy of action on the distal social and economic determinants of health. It is proposed as a term to assist the health promotion movement in arguing for a social view of health which is so often counter to medical and popular conceptions of health. The idea of a social vaccine builds on a long tradition in social medicine as well as on a biomedical tradition of preventing illness through vaccines that protect against disease. Social vaccines would be promoted as a means to encourage popular mobilization and advocacy to change the social and economic structural conditions that render people and communities vulnerable to disease. They would facilitate social and political processes that develop popular and political will to protect and promote health through action (especially governments prepared to intervene and regulate to protect community health) on the social and economic determinants (2).
1.Narayan R. Towards a Social Vaccine Challenges for Research, Forum 10 Global Forum for Health research, Cairo Egypt, 2006.
2.Fran Baum, Ravi Narayan, David Sanders, Vikram Patel and Arturo Quizhpe, Social vaccines to resist and change unhealthy social and economic structures: a useful metaphor for health promotion, Health Promotion International, 2009 Vol. 24 No. 4, 428-433.
3.McCoy.D Sanders D, Baum, F, Narayan.T, and Legge, D (2004). Pushing the international health research agenda towards equity and effectiveness Lancet. 364-1630-1631.
4.Thomas,I,N. Towards a Broader Understanding Of Social Vaccine: A Discussion Paper, SOCHARA, 2006.