Tag: advocacy

Vaccines and Social Media

Believe it or not, social media isn’t all bad, not even when it comes to talking about vaccines.

Of course, social media does amplify the bad players and does seem to help scare many parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

But the anti-vaccine movement pre-dates social media. Social media simply helps a minority of folks who don’t trust vaccines become even more vocal.

Vaccines and Social Media

So that we are on the same page, do you know what folks are talking about when they mention social media?

Social media is the interactive parts of the Internet, so places like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat, Pinterest, and YouTube, etc.

What are you going to find if you go on social media and want to talk about vaccines?

It depends.

“The semantic network of positive vaccine sentiment demonstrated greater cohesiveness in discourse compared to the larger, less-connected network of negative vaccine sentiment.”

Kang et al on Semantic Network Analysis of Vaccine Sentiment in Online Social Media

It depends on who your friends are, what groups you are in, and who you follow.

“Measures of information exposure derived from Twitter explained differences in coverage that were not explained by socioeconomic factors. Vaccine coverage was lower in states where safety concerns, misinformation, and conspiracies made up higher proportions of exposures, suggesting that negative representations of vaccines in the media may reflect or influence vaccine acceptance.”

Dunn et al on Mapping information exposure on social media to explain differences in HPV vaccine coverage in the United States.

And unfortunately, that likely influences whether or not your kids are going to be vaccinated and protected.

Social media can be a strong tool to combat vaccine hesitancy too though and can help educate folks that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

“Given the ‘viral’ rates of anti-vaccination campaign dispersion through these same media, public health departments working in tandem with community groups, clinicians, hospitals and federal officials can leverage strong coalitions to prevent and treat infectious disease in their communities.”

Warren et al on Measles, social media and surveillance in Baltimore City

It is especially important that local and state health departments learn to use social media during outbreaks to educate the public on the importance of getting vaccinated and protected and combat propaganda and new conspiracy theories that sometimes arise when they don’t put out enough information about an outbreak.

“Our results indicate that users of Twitter (OR4.41, 95%CI: 1.43-13.60) and Facebook (OR 1.66, 95%CI: 1.01-2.72) as sources of health information were more likely to be vaccinated in comparison to users who do not use Twitter or Facebook as a source of health information.”

Ahmed et al on Social media use and influenza vaccine uptake among White and African American adults.

More than a few studies have shown that social media interventions improve vaccine acceptance.

Posting a #flushotselfie on social media can help others get vaccinated and protected too.
Posting a #flushotselfie on social media can help others get vaccinated and protected too.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that it is the folks who are against vaccines that are more likely to talk to others about vaccines on social media.

“To summarize the results, mothers who generally support childhood vaccinations are less likely to engage in communicative action about the issue, including information seeking, attending, forefending, permitting, forwarding, and sharing.”

McKeever et al on Silent Majority: Childhood Vaccinations and Antecedents to Communicative Action

So what should we do?

Instead of worrying about getting Larry Cook and a few other anti-vaccine heroes off social media, let’s get more vaccine advocates on social media!

“By targeting those who are in support of childhood vaccinations with simple, fact-based information that is easy to share online, media and health organizations could create a contagion effect on social media, which could help change perceptions, attitudes, and possibly even vaccine-related behaviors, and might have implications for years to come.”

McKeever et al on Silent Majority: Childhood Vaccinations and Antecedents to Communicative Action

And not just during outbreaks of measles!

More on Vaccines and Social Media

How to Become a Vaccine Advocate

Are you tired of reading about outbreaks that might put your family at risk, either because they are too young to be vaccinated, fully vaccinated, or because they have a true medical condition that keeps them from being vaccinated?

Brittney Kara, who once wondered why vaccines weren’t mentioned in the Bible, gets a lot of other things wrong too.

Are you especially tired of reading about these outbreaks while friends and family members post anti-vaccine propaganda on Facebook that you know isn’t true?

How to Become a Vaccine Advocate

It is time to speak up and speak out against anti-vaccine misinformation.

It’s time to become a vaccine advocate.

Most importantly, post and share stories when you or your family get a vaccine!

Share your #flushotselfie and let folks know you got vaccinated and protected.
Share your #flushotselfie and let folks know you got vaccinated and protected.

And be skeptical when you see or hear something that is anti-vaccine, especially when they are talking about toxins, vaccine-induced diseases, Big Pharma, vaccine choice, mandatory vaccination, the benefits of natural immunity, or when they are trying to sell you their books, videos, seminars, or supplements.

If nothing else, drop a link to the vaxopedia whenever someone posts something about vaccines that you just know isn’t true.

More on How to Become a Vaccine Advocate

Who was Betty Bumpers?

Only when every child has completed his or her series of immunizations will our job be completed.

Even as some schools and communities continue to face outbreaks of measles, chicken pox, and other vaccine-preventable diseases, there is a very good chance that your kids are in a school where you don’t have to worry about them getting sick.

There is also a good chance that you have no idea who made that possible.

Who was Betty Bumpers?

Sure, a lot of it has to do with all of the parents who are making the right choice in vaccinating and protecting their kids.

And of course, there are the folks who actually developed the vaccines.

But there was a time when we had many vaccines and kids still weren’t getting protected.

“I don’t think that there is anything more important than immunizing our children and preventing unnecessary suffering. We’ve seen too much of that and it’s been so exciting now to see immunization rates going up. Betty Bumpers and I have worked on this for a long time, but Betty Bumpers is the real hero. She has done more for immunizations than any one person in this whole country.”

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

That changed in the early 1970s, when Betty Bumpers, as the First Lady of Arkansas, worked to raise immunization rates in her state, with the Every Child By ’74 campaign.

The Every Child in '74 immunization program immunized over 300,000 children in Arkansas.
The Every Child in ’74 immunization program immunized over 300,000 children in Arkansas.

She didn’t stop in Arkansas though.

“I believe our program, based upon volunteers and government agencies already in pace, has been tremendously successful.”

Betty Bumpers

In 1975, she told a Senate subcommittee that her immunization program could serve as a model for other states too.

“Measles incidence declined dramatically after large vaccination campaigns, but transmission was not interrupted. The licensure of rubella vaccine in 1969 led to mass campaigns to immunize children to avert an anticipated repeat of the tragic epidemic of 1964–65, which resulted in the births of approximately 20,000 infants with congenital rubella syndrome. The rubella campaigns diverted attention and funding from measles, resulting in a resurgence of measles. Federal funding for Section 317 declined during the early to mid-1970s. Immunization coverage fell, and disease increased.”

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, Immunizations, and MMWR — 1961–2011

A few years later, President Jimmy Carter announced the National Childhood Immunization Initiative of 1977, a program that was stimulated by the efforts of Betty Bumpers, with Rosalynn Carter.

In addition to increased spending on immunization programs, we soon had laws in every state requiring students to be vaccinated before they could attend school, and not surprisingly, measles cases quickly dropped.

It didn’t last.

Without support for immunization programs from the Reagan administration, vaccination rates dropped and measles cases soared.
The Role of Measles Elimination in Development of a National Immunization Program

In the year’s that followed the Carter administration, Federal support for vaccine programs reached a low point, as rates of children living in poverty and without health insurance also increased.

To help combat this rise in vaccine-preventable disease, Betty Bumpers, again with Rosaylnn Carter, launched Every Child By Two – Carter/Bumpers Champions for Immunization.

Founded in 1991, Every Child By Two, now Vaccinate Your Family, has worked to raise awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated on time and on schedule. This was especially important at the time, when many preschool age kids weren’t getting vaccinated. And it still is, as misinformation about vaccines continues to scare some parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

She also worked with her husband, Senator Dale Bumpers, to encourage Bill Clinton’s administration to develop the Childhood Immunization Initiative, which he proposed in 1993, and to pass the Vaccines for Children Program, which was created by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993.

The Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center wad dedicated in 1999.

In addition to her work helping get kids vaccinated, Betty Bumpers:

She is truly a hero and should be remembered for all of the work she did.

Whether folks understand it or not, it is because of the work of Betty Bumpers that even as some folks skip or delay their child’s vaccines, the outbreaks they cause are eventually contained before they get out of control.

Betty Bumpers was a champion in our efforts to reduce the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases among children in the United States.  She played a major leadership role as 1st Lady of Arkansas in improving immunization in that state and was inspirational in launching the first major Presidential Initiative on Immunization during the late 1970s.  She continued to be a major immunization advocate through much of her life launching “Every Child By Two (ECBT)” which she chaired along with Mrs. Rosalyn Carter, now “Vaccinate Your Family”.

Walter Orenstein

That work will continue to save the lives of millions of children, at least it will as long as we don’t let folks chip away at it, allowing them to abuse exemptions and spread propaganda, scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

That’s why we all must continue her work

For as Betty Bumpers said, “only when every child has completed his or her series of immunizations will our job be completed.”

More on Betty Bumpers


Vaccine Analogies and Metaphors

Analogies and metaphors are a good way to explain things, including that vaccines are safe and necessary.

We are sunk if we stop vaccinating.
As the CDC explains, we are sunk if we stop vaccinating.

Here are some of my favorite vaccine analogies and metaphors.

Getting vaccinated is like:

  • applying sunscreen before going to the beach
  • applying insect repellent before going camping in the woods
  • making sure that your kids are wearing a seat belt or sitting in an age-appropriate car seat or booster seat when you get in the car
  • installing anti-virus software on your new computer

When do you put on your seat belt? When you get in the car, before you get in an accident. Just like a vaccine. You get it before you get sick. Yes, some vaccines do work after you have been exposed to an illness, but they don’t work after you are already sick.

There is a problem with these metaphors though; they don’t include the risks to other people.

These do:

  • taking driver’s ed and getting your license before driving
  • taking swimming lessons before going in the water without a life jacket
  • putting your gun in a locked safe
  • putting a fence around your backyard so that no one in your neighborhood can drown in your pool
  • making sure folks don’t text and drive

That’s right.

Vaccination equals protection.

And not just protection for the person getting vaccinated. Being unvaccinated puts others at risk too, as you might start an outbreak.

Getting your kids vaccinated is like taking them to swimming lessons instead of just throwing them in the lake. Either way they can learn to swim and have protection/immunity from drowning. But one method (throwing them in the lake) is much more dangerous than the other.

Analogies can also help explain how vaccines work.

“Vaccines are a like a wanted poster, they just show your body what the bad guys look like, so when faced with them for real you are ready, prepared, and able to stop them before they cause harm.”

Can vaccines overwhelm the immune system?

Are there analogies that explain the idea of free-riders – folks who intentionally don’t vaccinate their kids and attempt to hide in the herd?

“If all my child’s friends are vaccinated, won’t he be protected by herd immunity? Why should I put my child at risk for vaccine reactions if all the other children around him are already immune?

This is like riding in a carpool where everyone contributes each month to pay for gas, repairs and parking. One morning, a new neighbor shows up and says, “I think I’ll ride along with you. But I’m not going to pay, since you’re going downtown anyway and you have an empty seat.” If enough people choose to take a free ride on other children’s immunity, herd immunity will soon disappear.”

Why is herd immunity so important?

And to explain the idea of what some folks consider vaccine injuries.

“I have found that it sometimes helps to give parents an analogy. I ask them the following: If they were to put gas in their car and then later got a flat tire, would that mean putting gas in the car had caused the flat tire? No. The two events were just a coincidence.”

Karen Lewis on What Vaccine Safety Means

What are some good analogies to describe how some anti-vax folks think?

Since that bridge isn’t 100% safe (I Googled that some bridges have collapsed), I’m going to let my kids swim across this river with fast moving water.

Have you heard the bridge analogy?

There are also versions with crocodiles in the water…

In case it’s not clear, in this analogy, walking across the bridge is like getting vaccinated. Swimming across the river is like intentionally not vaccinating your kids.

There are plenty of other good analogies that help to explain the importance of vaccines.

“Clusters of unvaccinated people are like patches of dry grass that, with a single match, can start a wildfire that will burn not only dry material, but sometimes wet as well. The match could be a student who returns from a trip abroad with measles or a train commuter with whooping cough.”

Saad Omer

It’s also important to remember that anyone, even those who are well prepared, can get burned in a wildfire. That’s why the analogy works so well.

“Vaccinating one’s children is like paying taxes. We all have a moral and a legal duty to pay taxes because we have a moral and a legal duty to contribute to the upkeep of our society and to its public goods (e.g., a good public health system, national defence, etc.).”

Vaccine Refusal Is Like Tax Evasion

Why are we concerned about those who are unvaccinated if our own children are fully vaccinated?

“Think of camping as an analogy. If everyone at a campground properly stores their food, bears won’t be enticed to come around. If even one person leaves their food unprotected, it invites bears in to investigate all the campsites for opportunities to eat.”

How does choosing not to immunize affect the community?

These analogies help explain how unvaccinated folks put others at risk.

“Being intentionally unvaccinated against highly contagious diseases is, to carry Holmes’ analogy a bit further, like walking down a street randomly swinging your fists without warning. You may not hit an innocent bystander, but you’ve substantially increased the chances that you will.

One might usefully analogize the risk of disease to a crapshoot. A person’s chance of being infected is, as Dr. Singer acknowledges, a matter of luck. But is it really OK for the unvaccinated to load the dice to increase the odds against other people? If so, by how much?”

Ronald Bailey on Vaccines and the Responsibility To Not Put Others at Risk

Of course, there are plenty of bad vaccine analogies and metaphors that anti-vaccine folks push:

  • getting vaccinated is like rape
  • getting vaccinated is like the Holocaust
  • “genes load the gun but the vaccines pull the trigger”
  • vaccine manufacturers are like tobacco manufacturers
  • I won’t set my child on fire to keep yours warm (this doesn’t work as a vaccine analogy, mostly because there is no benefit to setting your child on fire. Would an anti-vaxxer let their child start a campfire to keep their friends from dying in the cold?)
  • getting a vaccine is like eating a handful of M&Ms out of a big bowl when you know that a few have been poisoned
  • getting a child  vaccinated is like giving 1,000 kids 1,000 cupcakes, telling them to pick one and eat it, knowing that one of the cupcakes is poisoned (it’s maybe like letting a child with a severe peanut allergy choose a cupcake, knowing that there is a one in a million chance that the cupcake he chooses has been made with peanuts…)
  • I want safer cars, but that doesn’t make me anti-car

You understand why the anti-car one is a bad analogy, right? Folks who want safer cars generally still drive and ride in cars!

Have you heard any good or bad analogies or mataphors about vaccines?

More on Vaccine Analogies and Metaphors

Do Anti-Vaccine Parents Ever Change Their Minds?

Most anti-vaccine folks think that nothing could ever change their minds and get them to vaccinate and protect their kids ever again.

Even if they don’t believe any of the current evidence that vaccines are safe and necessary, what if we showed them some new evidence?

Nope.

They have ‘woken up’ and won’t be convinced.

Do Anti-Vaccine Parents Ever Change Their Minds?

Of course, folks change their minds all of the time.

They learn to see past the myths and propaganda of the anti-vaccine movement and they eventually get their kids vaccinated.

A megachurch in Texas that was the site of a large measles outbreak quickly hosted free vaccination clinics.
A megachurch in Texas that was the site of a large measles outbreak quickly hosted free vaccination clinics.

Unfortunately, it sometimes takes an outbreak to get them motivated to do so, or their child actually catching a vaccine-preventable disease.

Remember the Disneyland measles outbreaks in California?

“I’ve given more measles, mumps, rubella vaccines in the past 10 days than I gave in the entire 12 months previously.”

Dr. Jay Gordon on Demand for Measles Vaccine Sends Crowds Even to Anti-Vax Docs

Other times, it is a good pediatrician who doesn’t pander to their fears, and instead, answers their questions about vaccines and helps them understand the risks (very small) and benefits (very big) of getting vaccinated and protected.

Or they might have a friend, family member, or other immunization advocate that helps them be more skeptical of the information and advice that is scaring them away from vaccines.

Remember. The great majority of parents vaccinate their kids. And those that don’t, do often change their minds.

More on When Anti-Vaxxers Change Their Minds

Vaccine Resolutions to Make for 2018

Protect your children. Immunise.
Make a resolution to advocate for vaccines this year.

Need to make a few New Year’s resolutions?

We all know the popular resolutions that folks consider making each year, including that they exercise more, spend less money, and enjoy life more, etc.

Those are all great, but this year, how about adding a few about vaccines!

Why We Need Vaccine Resolutions

Why do we need resolutions about vaccines?

“You hear about people who don’t like to vaccinate their kids in the Western world, which I suppose is a personal choice, but when you’re out there, the result of your children not being vaccinated is that they’ll likely die, or be horribly maimed. So yes, I saw a real desire to have their children protected, and also a real understanding of it – I didn’t seem to come across anybody who went ‘What is it?’ Or ‘What does it do?’ They all seemed to know about it.”

Ewan McGregor on Cold Chain Mission

Not surprisingly, you don’t have to be “out there” to see what can happen if your kids aren’t vaccinated. That’s evident from all of the kids who have died during the recent measles outbreaks in Europe. And the fact that most kids who die with flu in the US aren’t vaccinated.

That’s why we need people to make these resolutions about vaccines.

There are too many folks out there who push misinformation and propaganda about vaccines, and there are parents who get scared and skip or delay vaccines, leaving their kids unvaccinated and unprotected.

Vaccine Resolutions to Make for 2018

Did you know that we are closing in on the end of the Global Vaccine Action Plan’s Decade of Vaccines? The plan is to deliver universal access to vaccines by 2020.

Unfortunately, universal access doesn’t help those people who simply don’t want vaccines.

So your vaccine resolutions this year could be to:

And this year, become an advocate for vaccines, helping parents who are on the fence understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, and pushing back against anti-vaccine misinformation.

“The promotion of the best scientific knowledge, moral attitudes, and public health practice with regard to vaccination.”

Balinska on What is vaccine advocacy? Proposal for a definition and action

Are you ready to make your vaccine resolutions for 2018?

What to Know About 2018 Vaccine Resolutions

Make sure that your New Year’s resolutions for 2018 include that you get educated about vaccines, get your kids caught up if they are behind, and that you become an advocate for vaccines.

More on 2018 Vaccine Resolutions

Vaccine Billboards

Have you heard about the vaccine billboards?

A billboard near Boulder to remind folks about the importance of vaccines & public health

Good idea, right?

Billboards to educate people about the importance of getting vaccinated and protected certainly do sound like a good idea.

That’s likely why some folks co-opted the idea and has started putting up their own anti-vaccine billboards pushing classic myths and anti-vaccine talking points.

Vaccine Billboards

Would seeing a billboard remind you that vaccines are necessary?

A billboard in Minnesota educates parents about the benefits of the chicken pox vaccine.
A billboard in Minnesota educates parents about the benefits of the chicken pox vaccine.
A billboard warning about the oversized influence of Hollywood celebrities who are anti-vaccine.
A billboard warning about the oversized influence of Hollywood celebrities who are anti-vaccine appeared by the Denny’s on Sunset Blvd and Van Ness Ave in Hollywood, CA.
Protect your children. Immunise.
A billboard in Australia to boost immunization rates.
HPV Vaccine is Cancer Prevention.
A billboard in Chicago for the HPV vaccine.
Fact: Vaccines save lives.
A billboard in Springdale, Arkansas that encourages passersby to vaccinate.
The best shot is a flu shot.
Flu shot billboard in Chicago.
Get your flu vaccine.
Flu shot billboard in Missouri.
Vaccines Save Lives
Get Vaccinated Today
This billboard of the from Immunisation WA was vandalized with graffiti to display the name of an anti-vaccine group.
This billboard from the Immunisation Alliance of WA was vandalized with graffiti to display the name of an anti-vaccine group.
A vaccine billboard in Texas.
A vaccine billboard in Texas.
Vaccines Save Lives! Billboard in San Francisco.
Vaccines Save Lives! billboard in San Francisco.
An HPV vaccine billboard in Wisconsin.
An HPV vaccine billboard in Wisconsin.

Need to learn the risks of ignoring these billboards and their advice to get fully vaccinated and protected?

In the pre-vaccine era, we had outbreaks of polio, and other, now vaccine-preventable diseases.
In the pre-vaccine era, we had billboards warning us of outbreaks of polio, and other, now vaccine-preventable diseases.

Get educated and get vaccinated.

Vaccines are safe, vaccines work, and vaccines are necessary.

What to Know About Vaccine Billboards

Vaccine billboards are one way to help educate folks that vaccines are safe and necessary and remind them to get vaccinated and protected.

More on Vaccine Billboards

Updated on January 17, 2019