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Leadership Needed to Move the (Vaccine) Needle

"Leadership is about acknowledging the truth, even when you don't like it, and being bold enough to address it."

Last month marked our third Integrative Leadership Research Forum, featuring Nick Kelley and Michael Osterholm from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. What came out of the discussion was surprising and highlighted a need for leadership I didn't even know existed.

The forum discussion was split between discussing the currently less-than-ideal form of the vaccine, and why it continued to be the standard. This answer lies somewhere between ethical issues in the public health arena and a blind hopefulness that if everyone just was vaccinated, it would be more effective across the board. Sadly, this is not the case, and many groups, including kids and the elderly, are receiving vaccine types that are only moderately effective at preventing flu infection. However, at the moment, the shot form of the vaccine is recommended for nearly all populations regardless of the clinical case for efficacy in that group. What this means is that while we make sure our grandmothers are getting their flu shots, it probably isn't preventing them from getting the flu. Not only is this shocking, but it means that leaders need to emerge to explain the current efficacy rates and push for better vaccines.

Coming from a background of business, public policy, and media, I thought I'd considered many of the top 'ethical' debates, and the roles leaders had in progressing what is best for the common good. However, this forum revealed that in every professional area there are needs for, not just rules to proper research and knowledge creation, but leadership to ensure we're being honest with ourselves, and creating knowledge worthy of the public good.

Special thanks to doctors Osterholm and Kelley. Our next research forum will feature Humphrey School of Public Affairs professor Jodi Sandfort on January 27th. We will post more details shortly.

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