These days, if a parent suggests to their pediatrician that they might want to skip or delay their child’s vaccines, it is typically not because they are afraid of any association with autism, or because they have been influenced by Jenny McCarthy or Andrew Wakefield, or even because they have done a lot of research.
It is mostly because they are scared.
Are You Too Scared to Vaccinate Your Kids?
What are they scared of specifically?
“In today’s world, smallpox has been eradicated due to a successful vaccination program and vaccines have effectively controlled many other significant causes of morbidity and mortality. Consequently, fear has shifted from many vaccine-preventable diseases to fear of the vaccines.”
Marian Siddiqui et al on the Epidemiology of vaccine hesitancy in the United States
Surprisingly, there often isn’t anything specific that they are scared of. That’s unfortunate, as it makes it harder to offer reassurance when they don’t have specific questions or concerns.
Still, something is scaring these parents, sometimes to the point that they have panic attacks if they even think about vaccinating their kids.
“…many parents are inundated with horror stories of vaccine dangers, all designed to eat away at them emotionally while the medical and scientific communities have mounted their characteristic response by sharing the facts, the data, and all of the reliable peer-reviewed and well-cited research to show that vaccines are safe and effective.”
Federman on Understanding Vaccines: A Public Imperative
What has them so scared?
Could it be:
- the vaccine scare stories from the media that they might still see and hear on TV, in magazines, or on the internet?
- the anecdotal vaccine injury stories that are rarely verified as being true?
- the myths and propaganda about sudden deaths, toxins, hidden ingredients, Big Pharma bonuses, a generation of sick kids, and package inserts, etc., that fool parents into thinking they are making an informed choice to skip or delay their child’s vaccines?
Whatever it is, it builds up to the point to where these parents fear the risks of vaccines more than they fear the risks and complications of vaccine-preventable diseases.
That’s not surprising.
After all, why fear polio, measles, diphtheria, or tetanus, etc., if you have never had or known anyone that has had one of these now vaccine-preventable diseases? Why fear them, if you have never known anyone who has died with one of these now vaccine-preventable diseases?
And why trust that you should vaccinate your kids when you are likely inundated with messages about vaccines being poison, a Big Pharma conspiracy, or that you can just heal your child with some garlic and essential oils if they get sick?
Reducing Anxiety from Vaccinations
Have any ideas on how to get over your anxiety about vaccinations?
To start, learn that vaccines are safe, necessary, and they work to protect your kids and that all of the messages you are hearing about vaccines that have been scaring you aren’t true. You have probably already realized that on some level, but there are cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies that work together to change our perception of risk, keep us believing things aren’t true, and in this case, can keep you from vaccinating and protecting your kids.
It can also help to learn to think critically and be more skeptical about the things you see and read about vaccines, especially if you aren’t sure about the source of the information.
“The Internet has been identified as an important source for parents to seek and share vaccine information. There are concerns that parental fears or hesitancy on childhood immunizations are increasing due to the popularity of social media and exposure to online antivaccination sentiment.”
Tustin et al on Internet Exposure Associated With Canadian Parents’ Perception of Risk on Childhood Immunization: Cross-Sectional Study
Don’t let a small, yet vocal anti-vaccine minority scare you into a poor decision about your child’s vaccines.
What to Know About Being Too Scared to Vaccinate Your Kids
Parents who are inundated with anti-vaccine messages and misinformation sometimes get too scared to vaccinate their kids, fearing vaccines more than they fear the diseases they prevent.
More on Being Too Scared to Vaccinate Your Kids
- I used to be a vaccine skeptic. Now I’m a believer.
- Why I wish my daughter had been vaccinated
- ‘Manipulation’ of vaccination fears
- The end of vaccine anxiety
- Study – Internet Exposure Associated With Canadian Parents’ Perception of Risk on Childhood Immunization: Cross-Sectional Study.
- I Used To Be Anti-Vaccine
- I was Duped by the Anti-Vaccine Movement
- Learning the Hard Way: My Journey from #AntiVaxx to Science
- I Didn’t Vaccinate My Child—And I Regret It
- Some Parents Fall for Vaccination Scare Stories, with Deadly Results
- Psychological Biases Play A Part In Vaccination Decisions
- The media’s MMR hoax
- The MMR story that wasn’t
- WHO – Impact of rumours and crises
- Evaluating Vaccines Requires Critical Thinking
- Letting go of the Paradigm of Fear
- Why are we so afraid of vaccines?
- Vaccines: Separating Fact from Fear
- Public Health Takes on Anti-Vaccine Propaganda: Damage done, Challenges Ahead
- How the Media Fed the Anti-Vaccine Movement
- WHO – Risk Perception
- Study – Epidemiology of vaccine hesitancy in the United StatesEpidemiology of vaccine hesitancy in the United States
- Vaccination: The Anatomy of Fear (incl. Soundtrack)
- Cognitive Biases in Health Care Decision Making
- Genotypes, Serotypes and the MMR: Cognitive Dissonance in Action
- Fear of Vaccines Goes Viral
- The Psychology of Anti-Vaxers: How Story Trumps Science
- Study – Free-Riding Behavior in Vaccination Decisions: An Experimental Study
- Study – The Roles of Altruism, Free Riding, and Bandwagoning in Vaccination Decisions
- Study – Vaccine Hesitancy: Causes, Consequences, and a Call to Action.
- Study – ‘Hesitant compliers’: Qualitative analysis of concerned fully-vaccinating parents
- Study – Bounded rationality alters the dynamics of paediatric immunization acceptance
- Study – Cognitive processes and the decisions of some parents to forego pertussis vaccination for their children.
- Study – Examining Sentiments and Popularity of Pro- and Anti-Vaccination Videos on YouTube
- Study – Understanding those who do not understand: a brief review of the anti-vaccine movement.
- Study – Public fear of vaccination: separating fact from fiction.
- Book – The Panic Virus
- Book – Deadly Choices
- Book – Autism’s False Prophets