“I’ve heard there’s a microchip in the vaccine.” That’s why so many people tell Dr. Rupali Limaye that they don’t want to vaccinate their children.
They may also say they are concerned that certain vaccines cause autism (a longstanding myth that has no basis in fact) or that the recommended vaccination schedule is very fast, or that there are long-lasting side effects, or that the government is withholding vaccine information, she said. , or the infection is not dangerous, etc.
The problem is that the science simply doesn’t support these ideas, said Limaye, who studies human behavior and disease transmission at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
vaccine Limaye said, is a miracle of the modern world, preventing diseases such as hepatitis B, diphtheria, polio, measles and tetanus that in previous eras killed and debilitated millions of people around the world.
That’s why the CDC, NIH, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other reputable health organizations are so specific about the vaccination schedule that nearly all parents should follow.
However, hesitation about childhood vaccinations persists.
While growing misinformation certainly contributes to this hesitation, vaccination rates can also vary by community, traditional or philosophical belief. American Indian and Alaska Native infants were 10 percent less likely than white children to be fully vaccinated. Similar disparities exist for black children.
Socioeconomic status can play a larger role. Babies living in households below the poverty line were 30 percent less likely to receive all recommended vaccines in the first 3 years of life.
In some cases, this hesitation stems from a history of exploitative medical conditions. For example, researchers in the infamous “Tuskegee Experiment” (1932-1972) deliberately left a group of black men with syphilis untreated just so they could see the effects of the disease. In the 1950s, research on the birth control pill used Puerto Rican women’s bodies without their full consent. It’s easy to understand how this history can make people wary of mandates in healthcare establishments.
When parents, for whatever reason, skip government-mandated and doctor-recommended childhood vaccinations, they’re not just risking their own children’s health. They also risk the health of the community, Limaye said.
Addressing the vaccine gap saves lives. Globally, measles deaths fell 74% between 2000 and 2007, thanks in large part to increased vaccination.
In the United States, marginalized communities appear to bear the brunt of vaccine hesitancy. This is often because they do not have access to adequate healthcare and health education, which can make a big difference during illness.
For example, between 2009 and 2022, blacks were 1.8 times more likely than whites to be hospitalized with the flu — American Indians were 1.3 times more likely than whites, and Hispanics were 1.2 times more likely than whites. But research suggests that vaccination lags in these communities may also be part of the problem.
Vaccinations and Religious Identity
In 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, measles outbreaks were at their highest level since 1994.This is because more and more parents are opting out MMR vaccine (prevention against measles, mumps and rubella), often due to misinformation about its dangers.
Vaccination coverage of the MMR population needs to be around 95% to be effective. Below that, there’s the risk of outbreaks, especially in areas where kids don’t get two doses of the vaccine — which can be common. (For example, 2016 data showed that in some Minnesota counties, almost half of children under age 7 received neither vaccine.)
These measles outbreaks in 2019 were particularly notable in some Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn, New York, where vaccination rates are low and religious communities have legal loopholes.
False preconceptions about the safety of vaccinations and their relationship to Jewish law are at the root of these outbreaks. But the increased prevalence among children led to extensive community discussions among the New York State Department of Health, Jewish scholars, local health professionals, and the community at large, which helped increase vaccination rates and reduce infection rates.
Other cases are more difficult to deal with.For example, in the early days of COVID PandemicA 2021 Yale University study showed that a group of people who identify as white evangelical Christians can be persuaded to get vaccinated against the greater good of the community. But research shows that this effect appears to fade as the pandemic drags on, possibly because attitudes toward vaccines are more closely associated with certain political identities and views.
Still, Limaye said there’s no reason vaccine education couldn’t work in religious communities. According to a 2022 University of Michigan study, while research shows that certain religious groups are skeptical of vaccines, only about 3 percent believe their religion explicitly forbids vaccinations.
teach, don’t preach
Vaccine education can turn the tide, but the approach you take can make all the difference.
Studies have shown that activities focused on a specific religious identity are more likely to elicit defensive responses. It is better to focus on the universal moral value of caring for others.
In fact, it’s usually best not to directly refute ideas, no matter how unusual they may seem, Limaye said. So what did she say to people worried about microchips in vaccines?
“I said, ‘I know there’s a lot of information out there and it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. Let me explain the vaccine development process to you.'”
“Part of it is structured in this way, it’s a shared decision-making process,” she said.
Continue to provide information, she said.In one case, Limaye saw the mother of a child with asthma decide to get vaccinated after hearing that another child with COVID had died because they also had asthma.
Correcting emerging myths is often a game of whack-a-mole, Limaye said. That’s why she has some general guidelines on how to talk to someone who may be misinformed about the dangers and benefits of vaccines:
- Listen to doubts and don’t immediately correct beliefs that seem to be based on misinformation.
- Try to address personal issues with facts from reputable sources such as the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, or the American Academy of Pediatrics. If one doesn’t trust one of these sources (such as the CDC), it’s best to have other reputable options.
- Consider providing content that can be read from a reputable source, either as a link or in hard copy. “Whether they ask for it or not, I’d rather give them something to look at than have them go and Google it themselves,” Limaye said.
- Listen carefully to objections to what you have to say, and understand that persuasion may take longer than a 15-minute conversation.
- Detailed description. Limaye advises the medical students in her class to explain more to parents and patients about how the vaccine is made.
Don’t talk to other people, says Limaye. Make an effort to meet them on their own terms. Personal stories are a great way to connect. If you have a personal story of a kid who got very sick because they weren’t vaccinated, “I think that’s really powerful.”