COVID-19 Surveillance in Wastewater: Communications and Equity
reportposted on 14.12.2021, 05:46 authored by Suzanne Manning, Mathew Walton
Testing wastewater for markers of human health is an emerging technological field, which brings with it issues of ethics, health equities and public acceptance. ESR has been investigating these issues with two social science studies. The first study was a series of interviews with knowledgeable stakeholders from Aotearoa New Zealand, focused on ethical issues around wastewater testing as an emerging field. The results showed that participants thought that the ethics approach taken would depend on the purpose that the technology was being used for, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to ethics of wastewater testing. There was strong support for diverse voices to be included in the governance of decisions around use of wastewater testing. The second study was a questionnaire for scientists and communicators working with testing wastewater for the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV2, both in Aotearoa New Zealand and in Australia. This study highlighted that public health surveillance ethics frameworks were applicable to this particular use of wastewater testing, with a key point being that such usage should be justified in terms of public health benefits across all groups of the population, and that this required wastewater scientists and public health officials to develop good reciprocal communications. Some guidance for public health surveillance using wastewater testing is offered.