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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dealing with Vaccine Skepticism

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss  the discredited theory that vaccine cause autism.

Here is a depressing fact about facts: In the face of beliefs, they often have little power. Fixing falsehoods — whether it's the closely held conviction of a birther or an anti-vaxxer — doesn't tend to work nearly as well as it seems it should.
But maybe we're going about the business of changing people's minds all wrong. A new study found that while it may be tempting to lecture someone that they're just wrong about vaccines and autism, it may be more powerful to simply tell and show them exactly what it's like when a child gets sick from a disease that could have been prevented.
From Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
Countering antivaccination attitudes
Zachary Hornea,1,2,
Derek Powellb,1,
John E. Hummela, and
Keith J. Holyoakb
Author Affiliations

Myths about the safety of vaccinations have led to a decline in vaccination rates and the reemergence of measles in the United States, calling for effective provaccine messages to curb this dangerous trend. Prior research on vaccine attitude change suggests that it is difficult to persuade vaccination skeptics and that direct attempts to do so can even backfire. Here, we successfully countered people’s antivaccination attitudes by making them appreciate the consequences of failing to vaccinate their children (using information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). This intervention outperformed another that aimed to undermine widespread vaccination myths.
Three times as many cases of measles were reported in the United States in 2014 as in 2013. The reemergence of measles has been linked to a dangerous trend: parents refusing vaccinations for their children. Efforts have been made to counter people’s antivaccination attitudes by providing scientific evidence refuting vaccination myths, but these interventions have proven ineffective. This study shows that highlighting factual information about the dangers of communicable diseases can positively impact people’s attitudes to vaccination. This method outperformed alternative interventions aimed at undercutting vaccination myths.