and the transmission of consistently accurate, science-based information. The committee recommends that CDC identify a single “voice” for the national vaccination program, a credible individual with a strong scientific background and an experienced communicator who can serve as the key CDC spokesperson. Additionally, the agency should develop several backup sources for the media who can offer the same level of informed comment and thoughtful observation as the program’s primary “voice.”
Such spokespersons should be trained in media techniques, as necessary, to respond to the wide variety of difficult questions that are going to arise during this challenging enterprise. Since the media also will refer to many well-informed critics of the vaccination effort, it is crucial that CDC’s communications are based in strong science and communicated with authority. These are essential ingredients to foster public confidence in the program’s direction and ultimate outcome. This cadre of health communicators must be able to speak authoritatively to both members of the general public and to health care providers who have anxieties and concerns that must be addressed. To safeguard the separation between political and public health communications, the key spokesperson should not be a politician. This spokesperson (and other key public health communicators) should address the public and be available for the media immediately and regularly after the occurrence of a serious adverse reaction or smallpox release crisis. Such a spokesperson may gain the public’s confidence by constituting a credible and consistent source of information and reflecting the expert management of a public health crisis.
Third, if CDC has not done so already, its communication planning may be enhanced by developing specific objectives and strategies targeting each of the audiences that have been identified. As an example, the media, which itself informs the public and needs access to the best, science-based evidence, requires information and transparency that will enable their reporting on program status. Based on their enormous influence in shaping public opinion and disseminating information to the public, the committee believes that state and local efforts would be benefited by CDC-prepared communication objectives focused specifically on communicating with media professionals at the national, state, and local levels, with strategies intended to increase communication between the media and health officials at all levels. The nation’s ability to prepare and respond to a smallpox attack or other potential bioterror threat depends heavily on the content and influence of media outputs before an outbreak occurs. A well-informed public also is essential to the success of the smallpox vaccination program, and to public health preparedness in general. Community leaders, community-based organizations, and local civic associations possess human and communications resources that can prove invaluable in assisting the CDC