Is This the Key to Countering Anti-Vaccination Attitudes?


While more American parents view childhood vaccines as safe and beneficial now than in previous years, some still aren't on board. But experts from UCLA and University of Illinois think they have finally found the most effective way to convince vaccination skeptics of the value of vaccines.

The research, published in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, determined that the way the vaccination argument is presented is what is most essential to changing negative attitudes.

Not surprisingly, most parents don't respond well when told their fear of vaccinations is wrong or uninformed. What does work? A simple reminder that the diseases, like measles, their kids can contract are "terrible"—and explaining that their children will be protected by receiving vaccinations.

In order to draw their conclusions, researchers split 315 adults (both parents and non-parents) into three groups—and those with very positive or negative attitudes about vaccinations were evenly distributed between the different groups. Before the experiment began approximately one-third of individuals had very favorable attitudes toward vaccines and the other two-thirds were skeptical of them.

Each group was then given different reading material. The control group read information unrelated to vaccines. The second group read information from the CDC that stated vaccines are safe, all children should be vaccinated, and that much scientific evidence has proven no link between vaccines and autism. The third group read information about how vaccines can prevent certain diseases, as well as showing photos and explaining the dangers of contracting the diseases. This group also read an anecdote from a mother whose son had suffered from measles.

Researchers found that it was this third group whose previously negative attitudes about vaccines changed most favorably.

"It's more effective to accentuate the positive reasons to vaccinate and take a non-confrontational approach —'Here are reasons to get vaccinated'—than directly trying to counter the negative arguments against vaccines," stated Keith Holyoak, senior author of the study and UCLA Distinguished Professor of Psychology, in a press release. "There was a reason we all got vaccinated: Measles makes you very sick. That gets forgotten in the polarizing debate on whether the vaccine has side effects."

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Image: Being vaccination via Shutterstock

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