Lessons learned from the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak for the management of the 2013 silent polio outbreak

Lessons learned from the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak for the management of the 2013 silent polio... Background: The Israeli Ministry of Health (MoH) encountered two substantial outbreaks during the past decade: the H1N1 swine flu outbreak during 2009–2010 and the silent polio outbreak during 2013. Although both outbreaks share several similar characteristics, the functioning of the Israeli MoH was different for each case. The aim of this study was to identify factors that contributed to the change in the MoH response to the polio outbreak in light of the previous 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak. Methods: We conducted a qualitative research using semi-structured interviews with 18 Israeli policymakers from the MoH, relevant specialists and politicians. Each interview was transcribed and a thematic analysis was conducted independently by two researchers. Results: Three main themes were found in the interview analysis, which reflect major differences in the MoH management policy during the polio outbreak. 1) clinical and epidemiological differences between the two disease courses, 2) differences in the functioning of the MoH during the outbreaks, 3) differences in the risk communication strategies used to reach out to the local health community and the general public. Most interviewees felt that the experience of the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak which was perceived as unsuccessful, fueled the MoH engagement and proactiveness in the later polio outbreak. Conclusion: These findings highlight the importance of learning processes within health care organizations during outbreaks and may contribute to better performance and higher immunization rates. Keywords: Polio silent outbreak, H1N1 outbreak, Organizational learning Background as unwilling to admit to dangerous conditions which Policymakers, managers, politicians and heads of various prevailed at the time the outbreaks occurred [1]. (non) governmental organizations play a significant role The functioning and management of policymakers in the management of health crises and in their preven- can be examined in light of the worldwide swine flu tion, specifically during infectious disease outbreaks. Pol- H1N1 outbreak in 2009–2010. During this large scale icymakers may be viewed responsible for the initiating event, policymakers and public health leaders had to phase of the outbreak or for not taking steps to prevent make decisions under conditions of uncertainty, and to its occurrence. Moreover, policy makers might be seen function without sufficient and efficient data and re- sources [2]. The public response included low adherence to protective measures and to vaccination. This was suggested to be related to lack of planning and to the low * Correspondence: iftachsagy@gmail.com value ascribed to the skills of policymakers [3–5]. Iftach Sagy and Paula Feder-Bubis contributed equally to this work. Although eventually the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak was Department of Health Systems Management, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er-Sheva, less severe than anticipated, it revealed weaknesses in the Israel planning and response to a large-scale pandemic [6]. Clinica Research Center, Soroka University Medical Center, 84101 Beer-Sheva, Israel Full list of author information is available at the end of the article © The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated. Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 2 of 9 The polio silent outbreak in 2013 single case of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) associated Israel was declared by the World Health Organization with the virus during the silent outbreak was docu- (WHO) as a polio free country in 2002. During April mented [9, 10]. 2013, a wild poliovirus type 1 was isolated from a rou- Table 1 describes the Ministry of Health (MoH) actions tine sewage sample in Rahat and Beer-Sheva, two cities during the 2013 poliovirus outbreak: setting a multidiscip- in the Southern district of Israel [7]. This region is linary response team early in June; launching an IPV characterized by a high immunization rate (90–95%), catch-up vaccination campaign among the Southern combined with a disadvantaged and poor Bedouin Bedouin communities; a hygiene campaign for intensified population. At the end of May 2013, the national vir- sewage and hospital AFP surveillance; reaching a consen- ology laboratory confirmed the case of a new non-Sabin sus within the local health community in Israel (policy- poliovirus type 1 which was isolated previously in makers along with primary physicians and hospital staff) Pakistan and Egypt [8]. Most of the isolations were prior to launching an OPV campaign; repeated consulta- from children below 10 years old and were located in tions with experts from the WHO and the US Center for Bedouin and mixed (Jewish-Muslim) cities in the Disease Control (CDC), and eventually launching a na- Southern district of Israel. Switching the vaccine type tionwide OPV campaign (aiming to prevent polio spread- from the live attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV) to ing) starting in August that year [7, 11–16]. In order to inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in 2004 allowed a silent “market” to the public a live vaccine which was withdrawn circulation of the virus, mostly in poor sanitation and from the Israeli immunization schedule in 2004 without overcrowded Bedouin areas. Although the majority of losing the public’s trust, a special media response team the children in Israel were vaccinated with IPV at the was formed by the MoH. This team paid special attention time of the outbreak, the rationale for reintroducing to the social media, and acted in a two-way communica- the OPV vaccine (with higher gut immunity) was to tion process with the public [17]. eliminate the viral spread, strengthen the herd immun- These actions led by the MoH assisted in containing the ity and protect vulnerable populations. Luckily, not a outbreak: by the end of the supplemental immunization Table 1 The response of the Israeli Ministry of Health to the 2013 silent polio outbreak Action Description The appointment of a multidisciplinary response team The team consisted of pediatricians, epidemiologists, infectious diseases physicians, risk communication specialists, MoH officers and members of the national polio eradication and the national vaccination advisory committees Hygiene campaign The campaign was launched at an early stage of the outbreak to inform the public about individual means to minimize the virus spread Early IPV catch-up vaccination campaign Initiated in June 2013 in Bedouin communities where the first poliovirus samples were surveilled. Its objective was to maximize childhood routine IPV coverage, in addition to outreach sewage workers and undocumented immigrants Intensified sewage surveillance Included stool based tests and followed by the development of a novel PCR assay, to specifically identify the outbreak wild type virus Extended surveillance of AFP Individualized investigation of every meningitis episode during the outbreak to rule out poliovirus involvement among hospitalized patients Reaching consensus within the local health Daily panels including MoH experts and family physicians, pediatricians and infectious community in Israel diseases experts were conducted in medical centers. They formulated guidelines and scientific materials that were published on the MoH website and e-mailed to physicians in the community and hospitals. National OPV campaign OPV inoculation to children under 10 years old Establishing a special media response team Informing the media and the public with daily updates using multiple (and multi-lingual) communication channels (e.g. television, radio, social media) Updating pediatricians through their professional electronic network Ameliorating the negative effect of the anti-vaccine activists by online responses on the web Daily media monitoring by specifically contracted commercial public relation firms to improve MoH response Monitoring real-time media response Timely briefing of the professional responders in the media in order to maintain messages uniformity Consulting the WHO and the US CDC experts Online and in-site meetings during the outbreak Abbreviations: MoH Ministry of Health, OPV oral polio vaccine, IPV inactivated polio vaccine, AFP acute flaccid paralysis, WHO World Health Organization, CDC Center for Disease Control Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 3 of 9 activity, the bOPV coverage reached 80% in the Southern face-to-face interview. An additional seven participants district where the outbreak began, and 90% among the from the initial list who did not respond to the first invita- Bedouin population in this district. The MoH national tion to participate were recruited using a snowball sam- OPV campaign was shown to be effective in containing pling initiated during the interviews. the outbreak, by decreasing new transmission of the virus Participants’ characteristics are presented in Table 2. leading to shortening the outbreak period [18]. Eventually, The majority were male, Jewish, and included 10 MoH the intensified sewage surveillance (aimed to track the officers (half of them were seniors, holding a national virus spread among the region’s population) demonstrated level position and half served as regional officers), four a gradual decline in the polio isolations, in addition to relevant specialist physicians from non-governmental or- nearly zero isolations in a second stool survey [11]. The ganizations (two of them served as chairpersons of rele- last positive sewage isolation was documented in April vant medical associations during the polio outbreak), 2014, followed by a declaration by the WHO that Israel two public health experts from the academia, and two was re-certified as a polio free country [19]. The OPV sup- politicians. Except for the politicians, all other partici- plementary activity was later re-incorporated into Israel’s pants hold a degree in health sciences. routine immunization schedule by the MoH [15]. Organizational learning is a process which improves Procedure the organization performance based on previous experi- Each interview focused on the flow of events of the polio ence [20]. In the setting of health organizations, it often outbreak, on inter- and intra-MoH cooperation, similar relates to intra-institutional processes to avoid medical and different characteristics with the 2009–2010 H1N1 errors, rather than including policymaking [21]. This outbreak and on lessons that can be drawn from the study assessed the functioning of the Israeli MoH during function of the Israeli MoH during the outbreak. All the polio silent outbreak in 2013 in light of its response interviews were conducted face-to-face in Hebrew, in a to the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak. It aimed to identify location that was selected according to each participant’s specific organizational level factors which contributed to preference (mostly in their office). Interviews lasted the improvement in the MoH response in the later between 45 and 60 min. Interview confidentiality was event. assured to each participant along with an explanation of the publication of his or her anonymous quotes and all Methods Table 2 Participant background characteristics Design and participants This qualitative study consisted of interviews with 18 Background characteristic N =18 policymakers involved with the 2013 silent polio out- Males (n, %) 12 (66.7) break in Israel. We interviewed policymakers from the Jewish (n, %) 16 (88.9) MoH, relevant specialists from non-governmental orga- Position nizations as well as politicians, regarding the MoH MoH national level officers (n, %) 5 (27.8) management of the outbreak. Most of the interviewees MoH regional officers (n, %) 5 (27.8) (15 out of 18) occupied the same position during the Specialist physicians in non-governmental 4 (22.2) 2009–2010 influenza outbreak. The interviews were organizations (n,%) conducted between January 2016 and July 2016. The Public health experts (n, %) 2 (11.1) interviews ceased after reaching theoretical saturation, i.e. when new themes and categories stopped emerging Politicians (n, %) 2 (11.2) from thedata[22]. Education Participants were selected following a criterion sam- MD (n, %) 11 (61.1) pling aiming to include individuals identified as primary RN (n, %) 3 (16.7) spokespersons of the polio outbreak in the Israeli media PhD (n, %) 6 (33.3) (television, radio, newspapers and news websites) by a MPH or MHA (n, %) 11 (61.1) database of the Israeli mass media publications [23]. Among them, we selected spokespersons that were in Other (n, %) 7 (38.9) policymaking positions such as MoH officials, politicians, Experience in the current position 5.0 (3.7–10.5) (median years, IQR) welfare workers in health committees and relevant spe- cialists/officials in non-governmental organizations (for Career experience (median years, IQR) 26.0 (18.0–32.5) example: the Chair of the Israeli Medical Association, Abbreviations: MoH Ministry of Health, MD medical doctor, RN registered nurse, PhD doctor of philosophy, MPH Master of Public Health, MHA Master of academic researchers) during the outbreak. The initial list Health Administration included 25 people that were contacted by e-mails and a The highest clinical and/or degree is indicated. Some participants hold more later by phone, and 11 of them agreed to schedule a than one degree Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 4 of 9 interviewees signed consent forms. The study was functioning of the MoH during the outbreaks, and differ- approved by the Ben-Gurion University institutional ences in the risk communication strategies used to reach Ethics Committee. out to the local health community and to the public. The preliminary interview protocol guide consisted of the following topics: a general description of the outbreak time- I. Clinical and epidemiological differences line, perspectives/opinions regarding the MoH manage- Most participants stated that unlike polio, the public ment of the outbreak, MoH intra- and inter-cooperation perceived influenza as a harmless condition, which occurs (with other ministries, non-governmental organizations, annually, without serious implications. municipal authorities), policymaking dynamics regarding change in the vaccine type and lessons from the MoH “You notice that “influenza” gets a seemingly ordinary management that might be implemented in future out- connotation. The flu appears every year. So it’s breaks. After the first three interviews, a preliminary con- different, the threat level is less than polio.” tent analysis was conducted and the protocol guide was (Interviewee #14). reviewed. Thus, the modified protocol guide included specific questions aiming to compare the MoH manage- Another interviewee added: ment of the 2013 polio outbreak to the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak, and the involvement of MoH seniors in reach- “Polio is often perceived as something more serious ing consensus during the crisis. For both protocols see when the person develops symptoms of the disease - Additional file 1: Table S1. the whole issue of the paralysis and disability - while the flu is often perceived as a simple ailment.” Data analysis (Interviewee #5). All interviews were conducted by the first author, who is MD, PhD graduated with academic training in quali- The influenza vaccination is offered to clinically defined tative research. All interviews were transcribed verba- target populations every year; the strains covered change tim and thematic analysis was conducted by two annually, according to WHO recommendations, with independent researchers (I.S. and a fellow PhD re- variable effectiveness. The 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak searcher experienced in qualitative research) [24]. had, eventually, a less severe impact than expected. This Each interview was independently coded into themes was described by some participants as one of the causes that were recognized by the researchers in a prelimin- for the “bad reputation” of the influenza vaccine manage- ary reading of the transcripts: clinical differences be- ment during the H1N1 pandemic, which decreased public tween the polio and H1N1 outbreaks, differences in compliance with the MoH measures: “This flu vaccine the functioning of the MoH between the two events, needs to be given annually, and this vaccine has a bad and issues relevant to risk communication. In case of reputation. That is because, for example, if you take the disagreement between the coders, a third researcher swine flu - there really was no terrible outbreak in the joined peer debriefing sessions in order to help reach country. Then, many people said, ‘Look, you jumped the consensus regarding this coding. The original citations gun’. In addition, each year you need to fit the vaccine to in Hebrew were translated to English and their accur- the changing flu strains. Every year you are guessing, you acy was validated by a professional translator. need a new vaccine every year” (Interviewee #11). In addition, participants stated that influenza vaccin- Results ation is perceived to be aimed at preventing flu complica- From the first interviews, almost all participants spontan- tions, rather than only the disease itself, while in the case eously compared the MoH response during the 2013 polio of the polio vaccine, it aims to prevent a “severe disease”: outbreak to the influenza H1N1 outbreak in 2009–2010. “There’s nothing to do about it. The influenza vaccin- Most interviewees felt the MoH functioning improved ation is problematic. Not only that it is how it is por- during the polio outbreak, and that the lessons learnt from trayed, but it is perceived as being a seasonal problem. I the H1N1 outbreak were instrumental for the im- still favor flu vaccines, but this is mainly to prevent provement.“ And all those things, I think, were taken more serious complications. It doesn’treallyprevent the into consideration and brought a significant change diseaseitself likewithpolio.” (Interviewee #5). (in MOH response) as compared to the flu pandemic.” (Interviewee #5). II. Functioning differences The main differences noted during the interviews be- Regardless of the clinical differences between polio tween the polio and the H1N1 outbreaks can be arranged and pandemic influenza outbreaks, most interviewees into three themes: clinical/epidemiological differences highlighted the improved performance of the MoH between the course of the diseases, differences in the during the polio outbreak in light of the previous Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 5 of 9 H1N1 pandemic. These participants explained that the personnel be vaccinated. There was a provision to be consensus reached within the Israeli medical commu- vaccinated back then, but nobody has enforced it, then nity prior to the launch of the OPV campaign played a or now.” (Interviewee #1). major role in the improvement of the MoH function- ing improvement. This was presented in striking con- Additionally, a MoH senior officer and a relevant spe- trast to the variety of misaligned voices that were cialist stressed that they perceived the MoH manage- raised during the H1N1 outbreak within the medical ment of the H1N1 outbreak as a failure. The fear from a community, when some opposed the vaccination: similar failure that would jeopardize the integrity of the Israeli health system motivated their actions during the “Unlike the campaign during the pandemic flu, I polio outbreak: think, they made a very wise move here by gathering a lot of forums and explaining the thinking process and “Everyone still had the scar the swine flu had left presenting the data. I think that because of this there three, four years ago, from 2009 to 2010. Doses of the was a very strong and dramatic consensus within the vaccine were ordered to supply almost all of Israel’s medical community, not resembling anything I have population, but the vaccination rate was very low. ever seen before. Definitely, if you compare this to the We don’t want to launch an operation whose failure swine flu where there was no consensus ... It also would jeopardize the credibility of the whole health creates a dialogue with the specific physicians in the system” (Interviewee #10). During the H1N1 outbreak, community regarded as a possible ‘weak link’ [to the vaccination campaign failed... there was a clear encourage vaccination].” (Interviewee #5). As another perception that the MoH did not properly deal with interviewee expressed: “One of the lessons learnt from the vaccine issue... During the polio outbreak, it was the case of H1N1 was the understanding that there important for us to maintain the public trust. We must be a broad consensus in the medical community. did not want this event to affect us in the sense that … The broader, the better.” (Interviewee #9). let’s say … 20 % of the public got vaccinated, then they would say, “Why did you make such a big deal, only Some participants felt that the identification of the 20% were vaccinated and nothing [i.e. a clinical polio outbreak (which influenced the MoH function) infection] happened.” (Interviewee #3). As expressed in was clearer than in the case of the H1N1 outbreak: these quotes, the integrity of the Israeli MoH in light “The flu epidemic is not a binary (yes or no) event. And of the perceived H1N1 failure had a substantial the event of the polio is a binary one. Here the policy is impact on shaping the policy of the MoH during the clearer, and we had a much better understanding of polio outbreak in 2013. what we need to do. In H1N1 cases, it was unclear what is expected to be done and how to do it. Here it was very straightforward; everyone knew what the next steps are.” III. Risk communication differences (Interviewee #14). The MoH made efforts to cooperate Participants mentioned several differences related to with the relevant partners during the crisis. It was per- different risk communication approaches used during the ceived by some participants that the decision to start two outbreaks. As expressed by most participants, the OPV was made only after careful consideration: “It was MoH has tried to be as transparent as possible towards clear that deciding to vaccinate the population with an the public and the medical community. One participant oral vaccine was not made incidentally. First, all the believed that the effort to be as transparent as possible different options were considered and field information assisted the MoH to achieve the OPV campaign goals: was weighed in. I think it was clear that everything was done in a very intelligent and balanced manner.” “There was an attempt to be more transparent (Interviewee #10). towards the public. It did not always work out, but Some interviewees stressed different aspects regarding they really tried. They tried to build a consensus not the MoH functioning during the polio outbreak while only within the medical community, but also among comparing to the H1N1 outbreak. A minority of them the public and among populations that generally are stated that unlike the polio outbreak, during the H1N1 not involved in the mass media. They deserve credit crisis the MoH did not allocate enough resources to for that.” (Interviewee #2). manage the outbreak as it should have done: Another difference between the two outbreaks was the “The MoH does not make a great effort to vaccinate MoH focus on social media. Participants stated that unlike against the influenza. I do not really see them reaching the 2009–10 outbreak, during the polio one, social media out with a large campaign, or demanding all hospitals’ was approached as a legitimate source of information. It Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 6 of 9 also served as a two-way communication channel with the the impact of a previous H1N1 outbreak management fail- public: to deliver MoH messages and to respond to the ure on the successful management of the current polio public fears and opinions. As a participant put it: scare. Several actions which were carried out by the Israeli “We were taught two great lessons during the H1N1 MoH and were mentioned by interviewees as contributors outbreak: the first is the need to work with the medical to the successful campaign, have been reported previously community, having them take a bigger part in with a similar positive effect. For example, reaching a con- decision-making process, and the second is to work in sensus towards OPV among the local heath community in the social media, Facebook and the Internet…...because Israel has weakened vaccine opponents’ influence and en- (during the H1N1 outbreak) we did not have the possi- abled the MoH to be the almost only source of informa- bility to be active there” (Interviewee #3). tion in the media, which increased the MoH credibility and the public impact [25]. Infectious disease outbreak Lastly, participants explained that in order to gain public risk communication has distinct and specific needs, such trust, the MoH relied on pediatrician spokespersons in all as building an equal partnership between the policymakers media channels. They were perceived to create more em- and media partners, engaging two-way communication pathy and identification with the audience compared to with the public and the importance of maintaining public public health officials and infectious diseases specialists trust despite the uncertainty that characterizes the out- who had dominated the media during the H1N1 crisis: break [26]. Tailoring the campaign to a certain subpopula- “Unlike the H1N1 outbreak there was a decision that the tion’s needs in addition to creating new channels (mostly doctors who would reach out to the public should be pedia- through social networks) that allowed the public to com- tricians and not the infectious diseases specialists or the municate in two-way communication, enhanced the MoH public health officials. Because no one can really identify message acceptance by the public [27, 28]. infectious disease specialists, no one knows them, nobody The majority of the interviewees felt there was an talks to them. The public health doctors are considered as obvious relationship between the MoH management of “non patient” doctors, and therefore they cannot be relied the 2009–2010 H1N1 influenza outbreak to the 2013 upon. On the other hand, pediatricians are people we are polio crisis. As stressed in the interviews, the MoH func- familiar with, people who love our children, people who we tioning during the H1N1 outbreak was described using care about, and they care about us. And indeed the per- terms ranging from “unsuccessful” to “failure” - which sons that were usually seen in the media throughout the jeopardized the public trust in the MoH. Almost all of polio event were pediatricians. I think that among all the the participants drew a line between the previous osten- medical professions, pediatricians are perceived as the sibly negative experiences to the improvement in the most pleasant and sympathetic.” (Interviewee #2). case of the polio outbreak. The main reasons that were In light of these expressions, it is evident that aspects mentioned for this change had reached consensus within such as trust, integrity and mutual communication (which the Israeli local health community before launching the were not considered during the H1N1 2009–2010 out- OPV campaign in addition to coordination with every break) characterized the relationships between the public relevant partner, with emphasis on being transparent and the Israeli health system during the 2013 silent polio toward the public, listening to the public concerns, and outbreak. constantly creating a dialogue through massive activity of the MoH within the social media. Discussion The 2009–2010 H1N1 influenza preventive campaigns This study illuminates the unique aspects of the Israeli are considered complicated, with low rate of success in MoH management of the polio silent outbreak during most countries. Several reasons have been suggested for 2013 in light of the previous H1N1 2009–2010 outbreak. this issue from a risk communication perspective: insuf- It seems that the experience of the 2009–2010 H1N1 out- ficient constructive communication between the gov- break management, which was perceived as unsuccessful ernment, the public and the media, viewing the media by most of interviewees, fueled the MoH engagement and as a passive player rather than a dynamic source of proactiveness in the 2013 polio outbreak. Previous quanti- competing information channels and slow governmen- tative studies on the field of health scares focused only on tal response to quickly changing issues of an ongoing one crisis. However, due to the qualitative methodology infectious disease outbreak [29]. In addition, while most undertaken in this study, our research innovates by allow- of the public expressed interest in receiving a vaccine ing room for participants’ perspectives, underscoring the during the H1N1 outbreak, the actual uptake was lower importance of previous experiences with health scares for than expected [30]. Several conjectures have been sug- the understanding of management of prospective ones. gested for this phenomenon: not involving the primary Thus, the current study is innovative in the elucidation of care physicians in the vaccination campaign, safety and Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 7 of 9 effectiveness issues regarding the influenza vaccine, poor functioning organization [39]. On the other hand, failures coordination between health authorities and the media, an (as the H1N1 outbreak perceived) might serve as a learn- outbreak that was relevant not only for children (consid- ing opportunity especially among healthcare organiza- ered as a subpopulation with higher adherence to pre- tions to prevent unwanted future events [40, 41]. ventive measures) and poor identification of vulnerable Organization learning often starts at the top with the specific subgroups with special needs [31–35]. Some of creation of a change by a leadership team, followed by these characteristics were also relevant during the early the encouragement and support of local initiatives and stages of the 2013 silent polio outbreak: poor coordin- personnel [42]. Hence, the Israeli MoH response to the ation between authorities, low diffusion to population polio outbreak during 2013 may be seen in the context at risk (Bedouins) and the need to “market” the OPV of such “reaction formation” to the former H1N1 vaccine to a well-immunized population in order to 2009–2010 outbreak. For instance, several factors that prevent viral spread, but with potential to induce ad- were mentioned by the majority of our interviewees as verse effects. being responsible for the change in the MoH response In two studies conducted in Israel during the H1N1 out- (e.g., transparency, regional leadership with national break it was hypothesized that the public does not accept leadership support and prioritizing proactive communi- governmental recommendations to receive vaccinations cation) have been recently reported to be critical in due to perceived risk perception and the need for a achieving control of polio eradication [43]. Similarly, two-way communication strategy that focuses on local lessons learned from the polio elimination experience needs rather than international guidelines [36, 37]. This were also implanted into the recent efforts to contain was also relevant in the context of the Israeli OPV cam- measles and rubella spread [44]. Although the risk for paign [38]. The abovementioned local H1N1 outbreak outbreak in the Western world is smaller than ever, in lessons shaped the MoH response during the polio silent an era of IPV- only vaccination schedule in these coun- outbreak. Participants emphasized that the concepts of tries, small pockets of susceptible individuals create a consensus reached, transparency and public listening challenge to prevent future polio transmissions [45]. corresponded with the cumulative experience of the Thus, the identification and response to silent outbreak H1N1 outbreak, and were closely related to the polio out- as has been the case in Israel, can serve as an important break crisis efficient management carried by the MoH. case study to other Western countries with constant The positive perception of the Israeli MoH response immigration when facing the dilemma whether to during the polio outbreak constantly and spontaneously switch to OPV during such outbreak. Interestingly, contrasted with the negative perception of the response none of the interviewees mentioned specific learning to the H1N1 outbreak may be attributed to the MoH initiatives after the H1N1 outbreak, despite the fact that thorough organizational learning process. Organizational most of the interviewees occupied the same position in learning depends on the cooperation of intra- and the two events and acted differently. Thus, while their extra-organization partners to create an “ideal-type” of experience during the earlier outbreak shaped their Table 3 Research implications and recommendations Recommendation Description Create schematic classification of the event 1. Type of the event (e.g. infectious, adverse effect, terror) 2. The scale of the event 3. Target population and its relevant needs 4. Measurable outcomes Set upfront ad hoc response team in charge To shorten response time Prepare list of interest parties Policymakers, senior and local officials, external specialists, leading leaders, relevant politicians and stakeholders Conduct routine training to the response team Use retired seniors with previous experience as tutors Allocate initial budget Protected funding to the early stages of the event Prepare clear guidelines to cope with crises Can be stratified according to major scenarios type (e.g. separate instructions to infectious and terror events) Assess constantly public response 1. Monitor the media including social media 2. Measure the defined outcomes 3. Change campaign strategy accordingly 4. Set the most appropriate spokesmen in the media Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 8 of 9 response during the later one, it seems that this hap- a learning process within the health care organization. pened due to the perceived colossal failure during the Encouraging structural learning processes within health management of the first event and not because of a care organizations may facilitate the management of fu- culture of organizational learning. However, the reci- ture outbreaks and contribute to higher immunization procity between the two outbreaks indicates the MoH rates and improved outcomes. not only improved its de-facto functioning during the later outbreak, but also switched from an authoritarian, Additional file maybe paternalistic style of management to a more participatory and holistic style which was more sensi- Additional file 1: Table S1. Study protocols. Questionnaire that was used during interviews. (DOCX 13 kb) tive to the general public and local health community concerns. Abbreviations This research finding may guide policymakers when bOPV: Bivalent oral polio vaccine; CDC: Center for Disease Control; facing future outbreaks (Table 3). During the early stage IPV: Inactivated polio vaccine; MoH: Ministry of Health; OPV: Oral polio of the event, decisions should be made regarding the vaccine; WHO: World Health Organization type, the scale and the relevant vulnerable popula- Authors’ contributions tion(s). These decisions, in turn, shape the extent of the All authors have read and approved the manuscript. IS, DG and VN are response, the most suitable means for communication responsible for study conception and design: I.S conducted the interviews, IS with the population at risk (e.g. using channels tailored and TPS conducted thematic analysis of the transcribed verbatim, I.S drafted the manuscript, IS, PFB, TPS, V.N and DG gave critical revisions. to specific subgroups as possible to enhance response efficacy) and adequate methods to monitor public be- Ethics approval and consent to participate havior with clear and measurable outcomes. A routine All participants signed consent forms. The study was approved by the assessment should be carried out constantly to measure Ben-Gurion University institutional Ethics Committee. these outcomes. Constant reassessment during the cri- Competing interests sis enables evaluation of the system’s actions to contain The authors declare that they have no competing interests. the event, and assist in reaching selected subgroups which may need special attention. Publisher’sNote Although our study provides further insight into the Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in organizational learning differences between the Israeli published maps and institutional affiliations. functioning during the H1N1 to the silent polio out- Author details breaks, we acknowledge several limitations. Conducting Department of Health Systems Management, School of Public Health, interviews 3 years after the outbreak may blur partici- Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er-Sheva, pants’ perspectives. In addition, we included partici- Israel. Clinica Research Center, Soroka University Medical Center, 84101 Beer-Sheva, Israel. Mental Health Center, Beer-Sheva, Israel. pants who had media exposure. This could have led to selection bias of outspoken participants who had a Received: 21 December 2017 Accepted: 21 May 2018 positive perspective with the MoH crisis management. Nevertheless, the interviews included MoH national References level seniors and local officers, in addition to specialists 1. Hooker C, Leask J, King C. Media ethics and infectious disease. Ethics and in non-governmental organizations and politicians, security aspects of infectious disease control: interdisciplinary perspectives; with various perspectives, all active during the manage- 2016. p. 161. 2. Fineberg HV. Pandemic preparedness and response—lessons from the ment of the polio silent outbreak. H1N1 influenza of 2009. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(14):1335–42. 3. 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Lessons learned from the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak for the management of the 2013 silent polio outbreak

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Abstract

Background: The Israeli Ministry of Health (MoH) encountered two substantial outbreaks during the past decade: the H1N1 swine flu outbreak during 2009–2010 and the silent polio outbreak during 2013. Although both outbreaks share several similar characteristics, the functioning of the Israeli MoH was different for each case. The aim of this study was to identify factors that contributed to the change in the MoH response to the polio outbreak in light of the previous 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak. Methods: We conducted a qualitative research using semi-structured interviews with 18 Israeli policymakers from the MoH, relevant specialists and politicians. Each interview was transcribed and a thematic analysis was conducted independently by two researchers. Results: Three main themes were found in the interview analysis, which reflect major differences in the MoH management policy during the polio outbreak. 1) clinical and epidemiological differences between the two disease courses, 2) differences in the functioning of the MoH during the outbreaks, 3) differences in the risk communication strategies used to reach out to the local health community and the general public. Most interviewees felt that the experience of the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak which was perceived as unsuccessful, fueled the MoH engagement and proactiveness in the later polio outbreak. Conclusion: These findings highlight the importance of learning processes within health care organizations during outbreaks and may contribute to better performance and higher immunization rates. Keywords: Polio silent outbreak, H1N1 outbreak, Organizational learning Background as unwilling to admit to dangerous conditions which Policymakers, managers, politicians and heads of various prevailed at the time the outbreaks occurred [1]. (non) governmental organizations play a significant role The functioning and management of policymakers in the management of health crises and in their preven- can be examined in light of the worldwide swine flu tion, specifically during infectious disease outbreaks. Pol- H1N1 outbreak in 2009–2010. During this large scale icymakers may be viewed responsible for the initiating event, policymakers and public health leaders had to phase of the outbreak or for not taking steps to prevent make decisions under conditions of uncertainty, and to its occurrence. Moreover, policy makers might be seen function without sufficient and efficient data and re- sources [2]. The public response included low adherence to protective measures and to vaccination. This was suggested to be related to lack of planning and to the low * Correspondence: iftachsagy@gmail.com value ascribed to the skills of policymakers [3–5]. Iftach Sagy and Paula Feder-Bubis contributed equally to this work. Although eventually the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak was Department of Health Systems Management, School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er-Sheva, less severe than anticipated, it revealed weaknesses in the Israel planning and response to a large-scale pandemic [6]. Clinica Research Center, Soroka University Medical Center, 84101 Beer-Sheva, Israel Full list of author information is available at the end of the article © The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated. Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 2 of 9 The polio silent outbreak in 2013 single case of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) associated Israel was declared by the World Health Organization with the virus during the silent outbreak was docu- (WHO) as a polio free country in 2002. During April mented [9, 10]. 2013, a wild poliovirus type 1 was isolated from a rou- Table 1 describes the Ministry of Health (MoH) actions tine sewage sample in Rahat and Beer-Sheva, two cities during the 2013 poliovirus outbreak: setting a multidiscip- in the Southern district of Israel [7]. This region is linary response team early in June; launching an IPV characterized by a high immunization rate (90–95%), catch-up vaccination campaign among the Southern combined with a disadvantaged and poor Bedouin Bedouin communities; a hygiene campaign for intensified population. At the end of May 2013, the national vir- sewage and hospital AFP surveillance; reaching a consen- ology laboratory confirmed the case of a new non-Sabin sus within the local health community in Israel (policy- poliovirus type 1 which was isolated previously in makers along with primary physicians and hospital staff) Pakistan and Egypt [8]. Most of the isolations were prior to launching an OPV campaign; repeated consulta- from children below 10 years old and were located in tions with experts from the WHO and the US Center for Bedouin and mixed (Jewish-Muslim) cities in the Disease Control (CDC), and eventually launching a na- Southern district of Israel. Switching the vaccine type tionwide OPV campaign (aiming to prevent polio spread- from the live attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV) to ing) starting in August that year [7, 11–16]. In order to inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in 2004 allowed a silent “market” to the public a live vaccine which was withdrawn circulation of the virus, mostly in poor sanitation and from the Israeli immunization schedule in 2004 without overcrowded Bedouin areas. Although the majority of losing the public’s trust, a special media response team the children in Israel were vaccinated with IPV at the was formed by the MoH. This team paid special attention time of the outbreak, the rationale for reintroducing to the social media, and acted in a two-way communica- the OPV vaccine (with higher gut immunity) was to tion process with the public [17]. eliminate the viral spread, strengthen the herd immun- These actions led by the MoH assisted in containing the ity and protect vulnerable populations. Luckily, not a outbreak: by the end of the supplemental immunization Table 1 The response of the Israeli Ministry of Health to the 2013 silent polio outbreak Action Description The appointment of a multidisciplinary response team The team consisted of pediatricians, epidemiologists, infectious diseases physicians, risk communication specialists, MoH officers and members of the national polio eradication and the national vaccination advisory committees Hygiene campaign The campaign was launched at an early stage of the outbreak to inform the public about individual means to minimize the virus spread Early IPV catch-up vaccination campaign Initiated in June 2013 in Bedouin communities where the first poliovirus samples were surveilled. Its objective was to maximize childhood routine IPV coverage, in addition to outreach sewage workers and undocumented immigrants Intensified sewage surveillance Included stool based tests and followed by the development of a novel PCR assay, to specifically identify the outbreak wild type virus Extended surveillance of AFP Individualized investigation of every meningitis episode during the outbreak to rule out poliovirus involvement among hospitalized patients Reaching consensus within the local health Daily panels including MoH experts and family physicians, pediatricians and infectious community in Israel diseases experts were conducted in medical centers. They formulated guidelines and scientific materials that were published on the MoH website and e-mailed to physicians in the community and hospitals. National OPV campaign OPV inoculation to children under 10 years old Establishing a special media response team Informing the media and the public with daily updates using multiple (and multi-lingual) communication channels (e.g. television, radio, social media) Updating pediatricians through their professional electronic network Ameliorating the negative effect of the anti-vaccine activists by online responses on the web Daily media monitoring by specifically contracted commercial public relation firms to improve MoH response Monitoring real-time media response Timely briefing of the professional responders in the media in order to maintain messages uniformity Consulting the WHO and the US CDC experts Online and in-site meetings during the outbreak Abbreviations: MoH Ministry of Health, OPV oral polio vaccine, IPV inactivated polio vaccine, AFP acute flaccid paralysis, WHO World Health Organization, CDC Center for Disease Control Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 3 of 9 activity, the bOPV coverage reached 80% in the Southern face-to-face interview. An additional seven participants district where the outbreak began, and 90% among the from the initial list who did not respond to the first invita- Bedouin population in this district. The MoH national tion to participate were recruited using a snowball sam- OPV campaign was shown to be effective in containing pling initiated during the interviews. the outbreak, by decreasing new transmission of the virus Participants’ characteristics are presented in Table 2. leading to shortening the outbreak period [18]. Eventually, The majority were male, Jewish, and included 10 MoH the intensified sewage surveillance (aimed to track the officers (half of them were seniors, holding a national virus spread among the region’s population) demonstrated level position and half served as regional officers), four a gradual decline in the polio isolations, in addition to relevant specialist physicians from non-governmental or- nearly zero isolations in a second stool survey [11]. The ganizations (two of them served as chairpersons of rele- last positive sewage isolation was documented in April vant medical associations during the polio outbreak), 2014, followed by a declaration by the WHO that Israel two public health experts from the academia, and two was re-certified as a polio free country [19]. The OPV sup- politicians. Except for the politicians, all other partici- plementary activity was later re-incorporated into Israel’s pants hold a degree in health sciences. routine immunization schedule by the MoH [15]. Organizational learning is a process which improves Procedure the organization performance based on previous experi- Each interview focused on the flow of events of the polio ence [20]. In the setting of health organizations, it often outbreak, on inter- and intra-MoH cooperation, similar relates to intra-institutional processes to avoid medical and different characteristics with the 2009–2010 H1N1 errors, rather than including policymaking [21]. This outbreak and on lessons that can be drawn from the study assessed the functioning of the Israeli MoH during function of the Israeli MoH during the outbreak. All the polio silent outbreak in 2013 in light of its response interviews were conducted face-to-face in Hebrew, in a to the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak. It aimed to identify location that was selected according to each participant’s specific organizational level factors which contributed to preference (mostly in their office). Interviews lasted the improvement in the MoH response in the later between 45 and 60 min. Interview confidentiality was event. assured to each participant along with an explanation of the publication of his or her anonymous quotes and all Methods Table 2 Participant background characteristics Design and participants This qualitative study consisted of interviews with 18 Background characteristic N =18 policymakers involved with the 2013 silent polio out- Males (n, %) 12 (66.7) break in Israel. We interviewed policymakers from the Jewish (n, %) 16 (88.9) MoH, relevant specialists from non-governmental orga- Position nizations as well as politicians, regarding the MoH MoH national level officers (n, %) 5 (27.8) management of the outbreak. Most of the interviewees MoH regional officers (n, %) 5 (27.8) (15 out of 18) occupied the same position during the Specialist physicians in non-governmental 4 (22.2) 2009–2010 influenza outbreak. The interviews were organizations (n,%) conducted between January 2016 and July 2016. The Public health experts (n, %) 2 (11.1) interviews ceased after reaching theoretical saturation, i.e. when new themes and categories stopped emerging Politicians (n, %) 2 (11.2) from thedata[22]. Education Participants were selected following a criterion sam- MD (n, %) 11 (61.1) pling aiming to include individuals identified as primary RN (n, %) 3 (16.7) spokespersons of the polio outbreak in the Israeli media PhD (n, %) 6 (33.3) (television, radio, newspapers and news websites) by a MPH or MHA (n, %) 11 (61.1) database of the Israeli mass media publications [23]. Among them, we selected spokespersons that were in Other (n, %) 7 (38.9) policymaking positions such as MoH officials, politicians, Experience in the current position 5.0 (3.7–10.5) (median years, IQR) welfare workers in health committees and relevant spe- cialists/officials in non-governmental organizations (for Career experience (median years, IQR) 26.0 (18.0–32.5) example: the Chair of the Israeli Medical Association, Abbreviations: MoH Ministry of Health, MD medical doctor, RN registered nurse, PhD doctor of philosophy, MPH Master of Public Health, MHA Master of academic researchers) during the outbreak. The initial list Health Administration included 25 people that were contacted by e-mails and a The highest clinical and/or degree is indicated. Some participants hold more later by phone, and 11 of them agreed to schedule a than one degree Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 4 of 9 interviewees signed consent forms. The study was functioning of the MoH during the outbreaks, and differ- approved by the Ben-Gurion University institutional ences in the risk communication strategies used to reach Ethics Committee. out to the local health community and to the public. The preliminary interview protocol guide consisted of the following topics: a general description of the outbreak time- I. Clinical and epidemiological differences line, perspectives/opinions regarding the MoH manage- Most participants stated that unlike polio, the public ment of the outbreak, MoH intra- and inter-cooperation perceived influenza as a harmless condition, which occurs (with other ministries, non-governmental organizations, annually, without serious implications. municipal authorities), policymaking dynamics regarding change in the vaccine type and lessons from the MoH “You notice that “influenza” gets a seemingly ordinary management that might be implemented in future out- connotation. The flu appears every year. So it’s breaks. After the first three interviews, a preliminary con- different, the threat level is less than polio.” tent analysis was conducted and the protocol guide was (Interviewee #14). reviewed. Thus, the modified protocol guide included specific questions aiming to compare the MoH manage- Another interviewee added: ment of the 2013 polio outbreak to the 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak, and the involvement of MoH seniors in reach- “Polio is often perceived as something more serious ing consensus during the crisis. For both protocols see when the person develops symptoms of the disease - Additional file 1: Table S1. the whole issue of the paralysis and disability - while the flu is often perceived as a simple ailment.” Data analysis (Interviewee #5). All interviews were conducted by the first author, who is MD, PhD graduated with academic training in quali- The influenza vaccination is offered to clinically defined tative research. All interviews were transcribed verba- target populations every year; the strains covered change tim and thematic analysis was conducted by two annually, according to WHO recommendations, with independent researchers (I.S. and a fellow PhD re- variable effectiveness. The 2009–2010 H1N1 outbreak searcher experienced in qualitative research) [24]. had, eventually, a less severe impact than expected. This Each interview was independently coded into themes was described by some participants as one of the causes that were recognized by the researchers in a prelimin- for the “bad reputation” of the influenza vaccine manage- ary reading of the transcripts: clinical differences be- ment during the H1N1 pandemic, which decreased public tween the polio and H1N1 outbreaks, differences in compliance with the MoH measures: “This flu vaccine the functioning of the MoH between the two events, needs to be given annually, and this vaccine has a bad and issues relevant to risk communication. In case of reputation. That is because, for example, if you take the disagreement between the coders, a third researcher swine flu - there really was no terrible outbreak in the joined peer debriefing sessions in order to help reach country. Then, many people said, ‘Look, you jumped the consensus regarding this coding. The original citations gun’. In addition, each year you need to fit the vaccine to in Hebrew were translated to English and their accur- the changing flu strains. Every year you are guessing, you acy was validated by a professional translator. need a new vaccine every year” (Interviewee #11). In addition, participants stated that influenza vaccin- Results ation is perceived to be aimed at preventing flu complica- From the first interviews, almost all participants spontan- tions, rather than only the disease itself, while in the case eously compared the MoH response during the 2013 polio of the polio vaccine, it aims to prevent a “severe disease”: outbreak to the influenza H1N1 outbreak in 2009–2010. “There’s nothing to do about it. The influenza vaccin- Most interviewees felt the MoH functioning improved ation is problematic. Not only that it is how it is por- during the polio outbreak, and that the lessons learnt from trayed, but it is perceived as being a seasonal problem. I the H1N1 outbreak were instrumental for the im- still favor flu vaccines, but this is mainly to prevent provement.“ And all those things, I think, were taken more serious complications. It doesn’treallyprevent the into consideration and brought a significant change diseaseitself likewithpolio.” (Interviewee #5). (in MOH response) as compared to the flu pandemic.” (Interviewee #5). II. Functioning differences The main differences noted during the interviews be- Regardless of the clinical differences between polio tween the polio and the H1N1 outbreaks can be arranged and pandemic influenza outbreaks, most interviewees into three themes: clinical/epidemiological differences highlighted the improved performance of the MoH between the course of the diseases, differences in the during the polio outbreak in light of the previous Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 5 of 9 H1N1 pandemic. These participants explained that the personnel be vaccinated. There was a provision to be consensus reached within the Israeli medical commu- vaccinated back then, but nobody has enforced it, then nity prior to the launch of the OPV campaign played a or now.” (Interviewee #1). major role in the improvement of the MoH function- ing improvement. This was presented in striking con- Additionally, a MoH senior officer and a relevant spe- trast to the variety of misaligned voices that were cialist stressed that they perceived the MoH manage- raised during the H1N1 outbreak within the medical ment of the H1N1 outbreak as a failure. The fear from a community, when some opposed the vaccination: similar failure that would jeopardize the integrity of the Israeli health system motivated their actions during the “Unlike the campaign during the pandemic flu, I polio outbreak: think, they made a very wise move here by gathering a lot of forums and explaining the thinking process and “Everyone still had the scar the swine flu had left presenting the data. I think that because of this there three, four years ago, from 2009 to 2010. Doses of the was a very strong and dramatic consensus within the vaccine were ordered to supply almost all of Israel’s medical community, not resembling anything I have population, but the vaccination rate was very low. ever seen before. Definitely, if you compare this to the We don’t want to launch an operation whose failure swine flu where there was no consensus ... It also would jeopardize the credibility of the whole health creates a dialogue with the specific physicians in the system” (Interviewee #10). During the H1N1 outbreak, community regarded as a possible ‘weak link’ [to the vaccination campaign failed... there was a clear encourage vaccination].” (Interviewee #5). As another perception that the MoH did not properly deal with interviewee expressed: “One of the lessons learnt from the vaccine issue... During the polio outbreak, it was the case of H1N1 was the understanding that there important for us to maintain the public trust. We must be a broad consensus in the medical community. did not want this event to affect us in the sense that … The broader, the better.” (Interviewee #9). let’s say … 20 % of the public got vaccinated, then they would say, “Why did you make such a big deal, only Some participants felt that the identification of the 20% were vaccinated and nothing [i.e. a clinical polio outbreak (which influenced the MoH function) infection] happened.” (Interviewee #3). As expressed in was clearer than in the case of the H1N1 outbreak: these quotes, the integrity of the Israeli MoH in light “The flu epidemic is not a binary (yes or no) event. And of the perceived H1N1 failure had a substantial the event of the polio is a binary one. Here the policy is impact on shaping the policy of the MoH during the clearer, and we had a much better understanding of polio outbreak in 2013. what we need to do. In H1N1 cases, it was unclear what is expected to be done and how to do it. Here it was very straightforward; everyone knew what the next steps are.” III. Risk communication differences (Interviewee #14). The MoH made efforts to cooperate Participants mentioned several differences related to with the relevant partners during the crisis. It was per- different risk communication approaches used during the ceived by some participants that the decision to start two outbreaks. As expressed by most participants, the OPV was made only after careful consideration: “It was MoH has tried to be as transparent as possible towards clear that deciding to vaccinate the population with an the public and the medical community. One participant oral vaccine was not made incidentally. First, all the believed that the effort to be as transparent as possible different options were considered and field information assisted the MoH to achieve the OPV campaign goals: was weighed in. I think it was clear that everything was done in a very intelligent and balanced manner.” “There was an attempt to be more transparent (Interviewee #10). towards the public. It did not always work out, but Some interviewees stressed different aspects regarding they really tried. They tried to build a consensus not the MoH functioning during the polio outbreak while only within the medical community, but also among comparing to the H1N1 outbreak. A minority of them the public and among populations that generally are stated that unlike the polio outbreak, during the H1N1 not involved in the mass media. They deserve credit crisis the MoH did not allocate enough resources to for that.” (Interviewee #2). manage the outbreak as it should have done: Another difference between the two outbreaks was the “The MoH does not make a great effort to vaccinate MoH focus on social media. Participants stated that unlike against the influenza. I do not really see them reaching the 2009–10 outbreak, during the polio one, social media out with a large campaign, or demanding all hospitals’ was approached as a legitimate source of information. It Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 6 of 9 also served as a two-way communication channel with the the impact of a previous H1N1 outbreak management fail- public: to deliver MoH messages and to respond to the ure on the successful management of the current polio public fears and opinions. As a participant put it: scare. Several actions which were carried out by the Israeli “We were taught two great lessons during the H1N1 MoH and were mentioned by interviewees as contributors outbreak: the first is the need to work with the medical to the successful campaign, have been reported previously community, having them take a bigger part in with a similar positive effect. For example, reaching a con- decision-making process, and the second is to work in sensus towards OPV among the local heath community in the social media, Facebook and the Internet…...because Israel has weakened vaccine opponents’ influence and en- (during the H1N1 outbreak) we did not have the possi- abled the MoH to be the almost only source of informa- bility to be active there” (Interviewee #3). tion in the media, which increased the MoH credibility and the public impact [25]. Infectious disease outbreak Lastly, participants explained that in order to gain public risk communication has distinct and specific needs, such trust, the MoH relied on pediatrician spokespersons in all as building an equal partnership between the policymakers media channels. They were perceived to create more em- and media partners, engaging two-way communication pathy and identification with the audience compared to with the public and the importance of maintaining public public health officials and infectious diseases specialists trust despite the uncertainty that characterizes the out- who had dominated the media during the H1N1 crisis: break [26]. Tailoring the campaign to a certain subpopula- “Unlike the H1N1 outbreak there was a decision that the tion’s needs in addition to creating new channels (mostly doctors who would reach out to the public should be pedia- through social networks) that allowed the public to com- tricians and not the infectious diseases specialists or the municate in two-way communication, enhanced the MoH public health officials. Because no one can really identify message acceptance by the public [27, 28]. infectious disease specialists, no one knows them, nobody The majority of the interviewees felt there was an talks to them. The public health doctors are considered as obvious relationship between the MoH management of “non patient” doctors, and therefore they cannot be relied the 2009–2010 H1N1 influenza outbreak to the 2013 upon. On the other hand, pediatricians are people we are polio crisis. As stressed in the interviews, the MoH func- familiar with, people who love our children, people who we tioning during the H1N1 outbreak was described using care about, and they care about us. And indeed the per- terms ranging from “unsuccessful” to “failure” - which sons that were usually seen in the media throughout the jeopardized the public trust in the MoH. Almost all of polio event were pediatricians. I think that among all the the participants drew a line between the previous osten- medical professions, pediatricians are perceived as the sibly negative experiences to the improvement in the most pleasant and sympathetic.” (Interviewee #2). case of the polio outbreak. The main reasons that were In light of these expressions, it is evident that aspects mentioned for this change had reached consensus within such as trust, integrity and mutual communication (which the Israeli local health community before launching the were not considered during the H1N1 2009–2010 out- OPV campaign in addition to coordination with every break) characterized the relationships between the public relevant partner, with emphasis on being transparent and the Israeli health system during the 2013 silent polio toward the public, listening to the public concerns, and outbreak. constantly creating a dialogue through massive activity of the MoH within the social media. Discussion The 2009–2010 H1N1 influenza preventive campaigns This study illuminates the unique aspects of the Israeli are considered complicated, with low rate of success in MoH management of the polio silent outbreak during most countries. Several reasons have been suggested for 2013 in light of the previous H1N1 2009–2010 outbreak. this issue from a risk communication perspective: insuf- It seems that the experience of the 2009–2010 H1N1 out- ficient constructive communication between the gov- break management, which was perceived as unsuccessful ernment, the public and the media, viewing the media by most of interviewees, fueled the MoH engagement and as a passive player rather than a dynamic source of proactiveness in the 2013 polio outbreak. Previous quanti- competing information channels and slow governmen- tative studies on the field of health scares focused only on tal response to quickly changing issues of an ongoing one crisis. However, due to the qualitative methodology infectious disease outbreak [29]. In addition, while most undertaken in this study, our research innovates by allow- of the public expressed interest in receiving a vaccine ing room for participants’ perspectives, underscoring the during the H1N1 outbreak, the actual uptake was lower importance of previous experiences with health scares for than expected [30]. Several conjectures have been sug- the understanding of management of prospective ones. gested for this phenomenon: not involving the primary Thus, the current study is innovative in the elucidation of care physicians in the vaccination campaign, safety and Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 7 of 9 effectiveness issues regarding the influenza vaccine, poor functioning organization [39]. On the other hand, failures coordination between health authorities and the media, an (as the H1N1 outbreak perceived) might serve as a learn- outbreak that was relevant not only for children (consid- ing opportunity especially among healthcare organiza- ered as a subpopulation with higher adherence to pre- tions to prevent unwanted future events [40, 41]. ventive measures) and poor identification of vulnerable Organization learning often starts at the top with the specific subgroups with special needs [31–35]. Some of creation of a change by a leadership team, followed by these characteristics were also relevant during the early the encouragement and support of local initiatives and stages of the 2013 silent polio outbreak: poor coordin- personnel [42]. Hence, the Israeli MoH response to the ation between authorities, low diffusion to population polio outbreak during 2013 may be seen in the context at risk (Bedouins) and the need to “market” the OPV of such “reaction formation” to the former H1N1 vaccine to a well-immunized population in order to 2009–2010 outbreak. For instance, several factors that prevent viral spread, but with potential to induce ad- were mentioned by the majority of our interviewees as verse effects. being responsible for the change in the MoH response In two studies conducted in Israel during the H1N1 out- (e.g., transparency, regional leadership with national break it was hypothesized that the public does not accept leadership support and prioritizing proactive communi- governmental recommendations to receive vaccinations cation) have been recently reported to be critical in due to perceived risk perception and the need for a achieving control of polio eradication [43]. Similarly, two-way communication strategy that focuses on local lessons learned from the polio elimination experience needs rather than international guidelines [36, 37]. This were also implanted into the recent efforts to contain was also relevant in the context of the Israeli OPV cam- measles and rubella spread [44]. Although the risk for paign [38]. The abovementioned local H1N1 outbreak outbreak in the Western world is smaller than ever, in lessons shaped the MoH response during the polio silent an era of IPV- only vaccination schedule in these coun- outbreak. Participants emphasized that the concepts of tries, small pockets of susceptible individuals create a consensus reached, transparency and public listening challenge to prevent future polio transmissions [45]. corresponded with the cumulative experience of the Thus, the identification and response to silent outbreak H1N1 outbreak, and were closely related to the polio out- as has been the case in Israel, can serve as an important break crisis efficient management carried by the MoH. case study to other Western countries with constant The positive perception of the Israeli MoH response immigration when facing the dilemma whether to during the polio outbreak constantly and spontaneously switch to OPV during such outbreak. Interestingly, contrasted with the negative perception of the response none of the interviewees mentioned specific learning to the H1N1 outbreak may be attributed to the MoH initiatives after the H1N1 outbreak, despite the fact that thorough organizational learning process. Organizational most of the interviewees occupied the same position in learning depends on the cooperation of intra- and the two events and acted differently. Thus, while their extra-organization partners to create an “ideal-type” of experience during the earlier outbreak shaped their Table 3 Research implications and recommendations Recommendation Description Create schematic classification of the event 1. Type of the event (e.g. infectious, adverse effect, terror) 2. The scale of the event 3. Target population and its relevant needs 4. Measurable outcomes Set upfront ad hoc response team in charge To shorten response time Prepare list of interest parties Policymakers, senior and local officials, external specialists, leading leaders, relevant politicians and stakeholders Conduct routine training to the response team Use retired seniors with previous experience as tutors Allocate initial budget Protected funding to the early stages of the event Prepare clear guidelines to cope with crises Can be stratified according to major scenarios type (e.g. separate instructions to infectious and terror events) Assess constantly public response 1. Monitor the media including social media 2. Measure the defined outcomes 3. Change campaign strategy accordingly 4. Set the most appropriate spokesmen in the media Sagy et al. BMC Infectious Diseases (2018) 18:241 Page 8 of 9 response during the later one, it seems that this hap- a learning process within the health care organization. pened due to the perceived colossal failure during the Encouraging structural learning processes within health management of the first event and not because of a care organizations may facilitate the management of fu- culture of organizational learning. However, the reci- ture outbreaks and contribute to higher immunization procity between the two outbreaks indicates the MoH rates and improved outcomes. not only improved its de-facto functioning during the later outbreak, but also switched from an authoritarian, Additional file maybe paternalistic style of management to a more participatory and holistic style which was more sensi- Additional file 1: Table S1. Study protocols. Questionnaire that was used during interviews. (DOCX 13 kb) tive to the general public and local health community concerns. Abbreviations This research finding may guide policymakers when bOPV: Bivalent oral polio vaccine; CDC: Center for Disease Control; facing future outbreaks (Table 3). During the early stage IPV: Inactivated polio vaccine; MoH: Ministry of Health; OPV: Oral polio of the event, decisions should be made regarding the vaccine; WHO: World Health Organization type, the scale and the relevant vulnerable popula- Authors’ contributions tion(s). These decisions, in turn, shape the extent of the All authors have read and approved the manuscript. IS, DG and VN are response, the most suitable means for communication responsible for study conception and design: I.S conducted the interviews, IS with the population at risk (e.g. using channels tailored and TPS conducted thematic analysis of the transcribed verbatim, I.S drafted the manuscript, IS, PFB, TPS, V.N and DG gave critical revisions. to specific subgroups as possible to enhance response efficacy) and adequate methods to monitor public be- Ethics approval and consent to participate havior with clear and measurable outcomes. A routine All participants signed consent forms. The study was approved by the assessment should be carried out constantly to measure Ben-Gurion University institutional Ethics Committee. these outcomes. Constant reassessment during the cri- Competing interests sis enables evaluation of the system’s actions to contain The authors declare that they have no competing interests. the event, and assist in reaching selected subgroups which may need special attention. Publisher’sNote Although our study provides further insight into the Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in organizational learning differences between the Israeli published maps and institutional affiliations. functioning during the H1N1 to the silent polio out- Author details breaks, we acknowledge several limitations. Conducting Department of Health Systems Management, School of Public Health, interviews 3 years after the outbreak may blur partici- Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er-Sheva, pants’ perspectives. In addition, we included partici- Israel. Clinica Research Center, Soroka University Medical Center, 84101 Beer-Sheva, Israel. 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BMC Infectious DiseasesSpringer Journals

Published: May 29, 2018

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