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Heidi Larson awarded Edinburgh Medal for work in understanding vaccine misinformation

Professor Heidi Larson from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) will be presented with the prestigious Edinburgh Medal as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival 2021.
Professor Heidi Larson

The award is in recognition of her work in recognising the importance of popular and widespread misunderstandings of vaccines and to advance public health and social wellbeing for the benefit of all.

The Edinburgh Medal is an award presented to women and men of science who are judged to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and wellbeing of humanity, previous recipients include Jane Goodall, Sunita Narain and David Attenborough.

Heidi’s research focuses on how social and political factors affect the uptake of health interventions and influence policies. Her particular interest lies in risk and rumour management – from clinical trials to delivery – and on building public trust.

Professor Larson, Director of the Vaccine Confidence Project (VCP) at LSHTM, said: “I am honoured to receive this year’s Edinburgh Medal. The Medal reflects not only a recognition of my scientific work, for which I am very grateful, but also an important acknowledgement of the challenging information and trust environment, which needs new approaches as we continually renew the relationship between science and society.”

Professor Larson grew up in Massachusetts, USA, and following a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University, she worked with UNICEF and Save the Children around the world; in Israel, Nepal and the South Pacific.

In 1998, she joined the World Health Organization (WHO) as a Senior Adviser in communicable diseases and tuberculosis programmes. Heidi then moved back to UNICEF in 2000 to lead UNICEF's strategic communication on new vaccines and to launch GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, and served on the WHO SAGE Working Group on vaccine hesitancy.

In 2010, Prof Larson founded the Vaccine Confidence Project to monitor public confidence in immunisation programs by listening for early signals of public distrust and questioning. By providing risk analysis and guidance to engage the public early, VCP aims to pre-empt potential programme disruptions. The VCP is the WHO’s Centre of Excellence on addressing Vaccine Hesitancy.

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