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Vaccine Hesitancy as a Consequence of Social Media Misinformation

The rise of mass media and exposure to diverse sources of information can impose both positive and negative implications to influence a view, opinion and attitude towards an issue, especially with regard to vaccines. Messages based upon fear, lack of evidence or even myths may impact the decisions individuals make in being vaccinated against infectious diseases such as influenza, pneumonia as well as COVID-19. A recent article written by Karen Nikos-Rose suggests that credible sources such as Universities and health institutions can generate positive attitudes toward vaccines rather than misinformation, especially with the help of fact check tags or when a post is verified. These simple actions can play a vital role in combating vaccine myths. Contrary to some beliefs it is vital that health experts respond to misinformation immediately. Prof. Jingwen Zhang, lead author from the University of California study states, “The most important thing I learned from this paper is that fact checking is effective…giving people a simple label can change their attitude. Secondly, I am calling for more researchers and scientists to engage in public health and science communications. We need to be more proactive. We are not using our power right now.” Facts about the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting and maintaining the health and well-being of at-risk populations including older persons and those with chronic conditions is available yet the risk of misinformation continues to influence behavior towards vaccines. Combating misinformation on vaccines through social media is a tested action to prevent the growth of vaccine hesitancy and encourage positive messages towards vaccines to reduce the spread of diseases that burden global public health. It is also imperative to understand the perspectives, views and opinions of at-risk populations towards vaccines to better respond to knowledge gaps and ensure messages are not only evidence based but tailored to answer health concerns and needs. As a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net, the IFA is committed to building awareness, knowledge and improving messaging on vaccine safety through a collaborative effort between physicians, public health professionals, policy makers, and civil society to ensure older persons, including those with complex health needs, are confident to access safe and affordable vaccines to live healthily. To join this global movement of combating vaccine hesitancy and building trust and confidence in vaccines that will enable protection against life altering diseases, connect with experts and learn more in our monthly newsletter. Dr. Gaëtan Gavazzi is a Professor at Grenoble-Alpes University and expert specializing in Geriatrics, Internal Medicine, Vaccines and Healthy Aging. He has published more than 120 peer reviewed papers and participated in nearly 500 events at national and international levels. His research related to this topic includes communicating the benefits of vaccines and analyzing vaccine hesitancy and acceptance. Mr. Gary Finnegan is Editor of Vaccines Today, an online platform that facilitates an informed discussion on vaccinations. The content of Vaccines Today is produced through interviews with experts from academia, patient groups, and industry experts, along with reports based on scientific literature and conferences. Gary is also the author of the Vaccine Misinformation Management Field Guide, which provides strategic guidance and coordinated action to rapidly counter vaccine misinformation. IFA is always looking to expand resources on vaccine safety for older adults and those with chronic conditions and welcomes you to submit it to VacciNet.

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The Link Between COVID-19 and Vision Health: Blood Vessels

As the novel coronavirus pandemic evolves, new information is constantly coming to light. Rapidly accumulating global data has shone a spotlight on inequities in social determinants of health, such as healthcare access and utilization. These same inequities contribute to higher rates of medical conditions such as diabetes, an underlying disease for which people are at great risk of severe complications and even death from COVID-19. Individuals with diabetes are at a heightened risk for eye complications like glaucoma, cataracts, and microvascular complications such as retinopathy, neuropathy, and nephropathy. An article published by National Public Radio (NPR), entitled “Clots, Strokes And Rashes. Is COVID-19 A Disease Of The Blood Vessels?” explains that the virus warps a vital piece of our vascular infrastructure. Dr. William Li, a vascular biologist and founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation, compares the lining of blood vessels to a freshly resurfaced ice-skating rink before a hockey game. "When the virus damages the inside of the blood vessel and shreds the lining, that's like the ice after a hockey game, you wind up with a situation that is really untenable for blood flow,” says Li. Intensive care units are being filled with patients who have large body mass indexes (BMIs), those with diabetes and with high blood pressure. Over time, these conditions damage the lining of blood vessels, which is then exacerbated by COVID-19. The fact that the virus is associated with microvascular alterations led a team of researchers at the Eye Clinic, Luigi Sacco Hospital, ASST Fatebenefratelli-Sacco, and the Department of Infectious Diseases in Italy to determine if the COVID-19 disease affects the retina of the eye and its blood vessels. The team’s findings were published in the Lancet journal EClinicalMedicine. The team screened the fundus (the interior surface of the eye) of patients with COVID-19 to detect alterations to the retina and found ruptured and/or twisted blood vessels. Furthermore, the diameters of arteries and veins were higher in those with COVID-19 when compared to those without. The researchers have stated unequivocally that “COVID-19 can affect the retina. Retinal veins' diameter seems directly correlated with the disease severity. Its assessment could have possible applications in the management of COVID-19.” The World Report on Vision seeks to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 3.8 which is to “achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.” Ensuring universal health coverage requires a global movement that involves civil society, governments, non-governmental organizations, academia, and industry in order to promote equity and reduce disparities in healthcare access and utilization. The International Federation on Ageing (IFA) works tirelessly with partners and members to achieve the vision of universal health coverage. On 11 November 2021 as part of IFA’s 15th Global Conference on Ageing taking place both virtually and in-person in Niagara Falls, Canada, a Presidential Symposium on Vision Health will bring together a global network of peers in the aim of conveying the importance of integrated care. Register now to learn about the latest global evidence in vision health, emerging policy issues, and the role of civil society in improving health care outcomes for all. To learn more about COVID-19’s effects on the retina, contact Dr Serge Resnikoff, Professor at the School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of New South Wales from the IFA Expert Centre, which offers a point of contact to specialists in the fields of ageing, vision health, human rights and more. To learn more about how to contribute to the critical conversation on diabetes and vision health, connect with Dr Supriya Venigalla (svenigalla@ifa.ngo), and join the DR Barometer community.

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COVID-19 | Supporting patients with hearing and/or speaking challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed healthcare systems around the world. Eye care services were put on hold or in-person appointments were limited as countries locked down, affecting those who needed these services the most. The impact of delaying eye care, especially in cases of degenerative eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts, is simply too high a cost when it comes to saving sight. The pandemic has also highlighted significant communication barriers for patients with hearing or speech impairments. The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) has placed these individuals at a great disadvantage for being able to communicate and receive appropriate care. The Vision Academy, comprising an international group of more than 80 experts in the field of vision and ageing, in partnership with the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) and Bayer AG, have developed an infographic on ways to support patients with hearing and/or speaking challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The infographic provides guidance for ophthalmologists on how to communicate clearly to deliver effective care, while minimizing the risk of infection. Best practices include establishing clear sight lines, good lighting, a quiet space, using hands and body language for better understanding, and having written information ready to enhance clarity. For further information on best practices for effective communication with hearing and/or speech impaired patients during COVID-19, please contact IFA experts Dr. Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the IFA, who played a key role in developing a guidance document on the topic, and Helen Louise Gillis, National President of the Canadian Council of the Blind and leading advocate for accessibility for blind/vision impaired Canadians. As a valued member of the DR Barometer community, please register for the IFA 15th Global Conference on Ageing which will feature experts from around the world discussing the importance of healthy ageing.

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Working Together to Defeat Invasive Meningococcal Disease

April 24 is World Meningitis Day, and on this day, the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) together with the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO) and Immunize Canada want to remind you that meningococcal disease is a health risk you should not take.

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