Image by USACE European District
A recent study just came out, and it showed something super interesting: parents who are against vaccines, or on the fence, are less likely to vaccinate their children after being exposed to one of four pro-vaccine messages.
This study is infuriating pro-vaccine advocates everywhere, some of whom are calling for the end to vaccine exemptions (or at least making them more difficult to get, like in California). Seems typical: if you can’t cajole them, force them.
I’m not surprised by this result, and I’ll bet a lot of others aren’t, either. Because here’s the truth: you can’t scare parents into making the decision that you think they should. And what’s more, you shouldn’t try.
What The Study Found
The study took over 1700 parents and asked them about their view on vaccines. They then exposed them to one of 4 messages:
- Evidence debunking the vaccine-autism link
- Stories of children who were really sick with diseases like measles
- Pictures of kids who had measles
- Nothing (no attempt to ‘educate’)
For the latter three, they found no change in parents’ vaccine choices. For the first, they found that the percentage of people planning to vaccinate fell from 70 to 45%!
In general, parents seemed to be more fearful of vaccine reactions than diseases, and they also believed that the government was lying to them.
The one method — not specifically studied — that did seem to work to increase vaccination rates, was a personal recommendation from friends, family, or a trusted physician. However, if more than 25% of a social group questioned vaccines or chose an alternative schedule, people were more likely to do so as well.
Learn more about the vaccine controversy, including *real* studies about safety, efficacy, and potential benefits to getting these diseases in A Practical Guide to Children’s Health. Get the paperback copy here.
Somehow, despite a history of these sorts of propaganda campaigns backfiring, pro-vaccine advocates were surprised by this result. They have spent millions on these vaccine campaigns, trying to scare parents into vaccination. That’s why every couple of months, there’s a new story about people who died or nearly died from “vaccine preventable” diseases, or who weren’t vaccinated and were really sick all the time. It’s also why they like to release new evidence of “disease outbreaks” that are, obviously, caused by all those unvaccinated people.
The problem is that it’s over the top. It’s ridiculous. It’s paper-thin.
People who are already on the fence about vaccines are already aware of the controversy that’s out there. They’ve already heard the pro-vaccine messages time and again. So when these messages are pushed harder, hammered at them, and their very real questions and concerns aren’t answered, they’re likely to turn against vaccines — or at least become no more convinced in either direction.
Researchers thought what they were seeing was “transferred fears” — that is, that when they were told how scary measles was, they began to think of other things that were scary, like vaccines. But this supposes that parents are rather…stupid. It supposes that by increasing their fear, they’re just afraid overall and it leads them to make stupid decisions, like eschewing vaccines because of heightened fear.
I don’t buy that at all.
I think parents are far smarter than that. I think too many parents are out there asking, “Why are they pushing this so hard? Why are they refusing to answer our questions? Why is no one doing a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study? Why are they not treating this like a legitimate, two-sided issue when so many parents have honest concerns?”
And when they ask these questions, to which there are no good answers, they come to the conclusion that they can’t trust the people who are continuously sharing the same, hard-line message: “Vaccines are safe and necessary.” And they may even decide that vaccines must be dangerous, if they have to try so hard to shut down the conversation!
The current nastiness, like this lovely Slate article, is only going to push more people away. Why do others continue to insist that those who question vaccines or believe they should have a right to choose which/when/how many they receive are uneducated nut jobs? It only makes people angrier, and it only makes them trust the public message less.
Only people are truly desperate would be willing to shut down a conversation, refuse to answer questions, and shout, “You have to do it because I said so!” Which is effectively what is happening here.
The next step, since their rhetoric isn’t working, is to try to make it illegal to have a choice. In California, they have changed the laws regarding exemptions. Now, to obtain a religious exemption, you have to sign a form that effectively says your religion leads you to avoid all medical care (that may be used to prove medical neglect later!). To obtain a philosophical exemption, you have to visit a doctor and allow them to “educate” you on the dangers of refusing vaccines before signing off. If you do not visit the doctor, you do not get to claim the exemption.
That’s the first step: make exemptions harder to obtain. Allow doctors to pressure families into vaccinating, or even flat-out refuse to sign the form (giving them little choice, unless they move or drive to another doctor — easier in some areas than others). They believe if they make parents sit down and listen to a doctor’s personal recommendations, it will do what the mass messages can’t. And maybe, in some cases, it will — but parents who are already well-researched and set on their choice (whatever that is) are not going to be swayed that easily.
The next step, which Dr. Paul Offit is advocating for, is removing exemptions (other than medical) entirely. He believes everyone should have to receive the full CDC schedule, without question.
What kind of desperate people honestly believe that any given medical procedure is the right choice for all people, all the time? And that they have to actually force them to accept it?
Expect to see an even greater amount of force coming. They’ve been pushing harder and harder for vaccine safety advocates to stop asking questions, stop choosing delayed or selective schedules, and stop opting out, for a few years now. There’s been a great uptick in hysteria.
Now that they know for sure that these tactics are failing, they’re going to push even harder. They’re going to bully. If they can’t make people “fall in line” with reasoning, or with scare tactics, they will use force — starting with the removal or increasing difficulty in obtaining exemptions.
I find it small-minded to force anything on another, personally. I believe parents are best equipped to make this decision for their own families, in conjunction with a health professional of their choice. I believe parents are intelligent and strong and know their children best.
We must not let them take our rights away. This isn’t about whether you personally choose to vaccinate or not — you should have the freedom to choose to do so, if you wish. This is about retaining the right to make that choice for yourself.
Don’t let them make the conversation about “those uneducated refusers.” Force the conversation to be about proving vaccines are truly safe, proving that they are truly necessary, proving that there aren’t safer ways to protect children. And most of all, force the conversation to be about respect for parents’ rights, including their right to choose or refuse some or all vaccines.
Share this post and others like it with friends and family. Write to your congress people and let them know this issue is important to you. Speak out! If we don’t push back, they’ll take our rights away. They know their fear isn’t working…so it’s only a matter of time before they push even harder. Be ready.
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