Fabiana Zollo at the Global Vaccine Confidence Summit 

Photo: Hakan Nural, Unsplash

Fabiana Zollo, researcher at the Department of Environmental Sciences, Informatics and Statistics, participated in the Global Vaccine Confidence Summit, together with leaders and experts from all over the world. The summit aimed to promote international collaboration to build vaccine confidence globally, also thanks to the use of technology.

As stated in the press release, the Global Vaccine Confidence Summit was organised by the UK government as part of its presidency of the 47th G7 Summit, which was held in Cornwall between 11 and 13 June 2021. The G7 included the seven members (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States of America) as well as guest countries (Australia, India, South Korea, South Africa). The overarching ambition of this G7 was to intensify cooperation between the world’s democratic and technologically advanced nations.

In order to promote confidence and trust in vaccines, two strategies were proposed at the Global Vaccine Confidence Summit. The first was the creation of a digital insight platform to provide global and local insight, as well as trends on vaccine confidence and on the misinformation that can undermine it. The second was the creation of IRIS, a coalition of some of the best academic organisations to understand ‘infodemics’ and promote healthy information systems. IRIS is a collaborative project between the Vaccine Confidence Project (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), University of Cambridge, Sapienza University of Rome, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, City University of London (and the Alan Turing Institute) and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Fabiana Zollo contributed to the session Intelligent Insight: How innovative technologies can enhance our responsiveness to the rapidly evolving challenge of ensuring confidence in vaccines remains high. The aim of the session was to discuss how emerging and innovative technologies can offer ideas and solutions to the challenge of ensuring that the level of people’s trust in vaccines remains high. 

The research presented some of the results of the research on infodemics and COVID-19, based on the study published last year in Nature Scientific Reports. In particular, Zollo highlighted the dynamics of polarisation that characterise public debates on social media on issues that are controversial, debated or uncertain. She stressed the need to develop models and metrics for quantitative analysis of public perception, of public debate on vaccines, and of the policies implemented to contain the pandemic. According to her, “Every platform has specific traits, which however depend on individual and group behavioural dynamics. A rapid and thorough understanding of these dynamics is crucial in order to define effective measures against misinformation and to prevent its impact on trust in vaccines.”

A project created by the UK government and People’s Picture was presented at the conference: The Luminaries, an interactive photomosaic which celebrates the stories of the “luminaries” behind the vaccines around the world. The project aims to help users learn about the work that is being undertaken globally, to build trust and confidence in vaccines. According to Zollo, “This initiative shows that we should not demonise social media and digital platforms. In fact, they are tools that have a potential to be useful and effective, that enable us to communicate at an incredible speed. However, it is important that we study their dynamics, in order to promote a mindful use on the part of users and of content creators.” 

Joangela Ceccon