There’s A Simple Way To Get Skeptical Parents To Vaccinate

Vaccination rates are at an all-time low in some pockets of the U.S., due to a seemingly intractable anti-vaccination sentiment among some parents. This is a major risk to the public safety, but doctors struggle to make headway because medical evidence doesn’t seem to assuage these parents’ concerns.

So far, most strategies have focused on refuting the myth that vaccines can cause autism. But a new study suggests that confronting parents about the “wrongness” of their views is probably a dead end. Instead, showing parents images of and personal testimonies about infectious diseases seemed to improve skeptics’ attitudes about vaccines.

Sidestepping a confrontation about how vaccines don’t cause autism, and instead concentrating on the dangers of skipping vaccines, could be the way forward in changing resistant parents’ minds, said researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and the University of California, Los Angeles.

“That might mean showing parents images of sick children or explaining just how dangerous those diseases are,” said Derek Powell, one of the study’s lead authors and a doctoral student at the UCLA Reasoning Lab. “If I were a doctor I think I would want to make new parents feel at ease, but that might not be the best course when it comes to the dangers of these diseases.”

For the study, Powell and his colleagues divided 315 participants into three groups. The first looked at written material challenging anti-vaccination arguments. The second group read materials from the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that focused on the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases. The material included a stirring paragraph by a mother whose child had measles, some short warnings about the importance of vaccines, and photos of children with measles, mumps and and rubella. The third group — the control —> Read More