Tag: on the fence

Anti-Vaccine Censorship on Facebook

If you ever wander into a holistic parenting group or a vaccine group that claims to offer “both sides” to educate folks about vaccines, you will, or at least you should, quickly notice that all of the posts and replies sound eerily alike.

This toddler might end up with tetanus because of bad information in this anti-vaccine group.
This toddler might end up with tetanus because of bad advice in this anti-vaccine group.

If a parent asks about a tetanus shot for their child’s wound in one of these groups, no one will suggest that they rush to their pediatrician and get it.

The only disagreements you might see are whether they should treat the wound with colloidal silver, black salve, garlic, urine, activated charcoal, tea tree oil, raw honey, essential oils, or some other non-evidence based therapy.

Anti-Vaccine Censorship

It is no accident that folks get uniform advice against vaccines in these so-called vaccine “education” groups.

The comment that got me banned from posting on Phyicians for Informed Consent.
As often happens on anti-vaccine sites, my comment about tetanus shots was quickly deleted and I was banned from posting further messages.

Anyone who goes against the “vaccines are dangerous” mantra of these groups typically has their comments quickly deleted and gets banned from the group.

Why?

“Echo chambers abound for many other conditions which are not medically recognised, from chronic Lyme disease to electromagnetic hypersensitivity. But perhaps most worrisome is the advance of anti-vaccine narratives across the web. The explosion of dubious sources has allowed them to propagate wildly, undeterred by debunking in the popular press. We might take the current drastic fall in HPV vaccine uptake in Ireland, driven by anti-vaccine groups like REGRET, despite its life-saving efficacy. While organisations including the Health Service Executive have valiantly tried to counter these myths, these claims are perpetuated across social media with little to stop them.”

Echo chambers are dangerous – we must try to break free of our online bubbles

To create an echo chamber of anti-vaccine myths and propaganda and help reinforce all of their anti-vaccine beliefs. And of course, to help scare parents who might be on the fence about vaccines.

After all, it is easier to feel confident in your decisions when you think that everyone else is doing the same thing. Of course they aren’t though. The great majority of people vaccinate and protect their kids.

It is only in these echo chambers of anti-vaccine misinformation that anyone would think that it would be okay to not get an unvaccinated toddler proper treatment for a cut, to skip a rabies shot after exposure to a rabid bat, or to not get travel vaccines before visiting high risk areas of the world.

That’s the power of confirmation bias.

And whether or not you realize it, confirmation bias is likely one of the reasons that you aren’t vaccinating and protecting your kids.

That’s why you need to step out of these echo chambers if you want to understand that vaccines are safe and necessary.

What to Know About Anti-Vaccine Censorhip

Anti-vaccine groups routinely censor, ban, and block messages from people who correct misinformation about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases.

More on Anti-Vaccine Censorship

How To Counter Vaccine Hesitancy

There is nothing wrong with having questions about vaccines. And there is certainly nothing wrong with doing a little, or even a lot of research about vaccines.

“We are not against vaccines. Just because we have hesitancies and valid concerns about injecting our baby with specific chemicals and toxins does not mean we are anti anything…

As a soon-to-be-parent [and especially as a first-time-mom] I do feel it my responsibility to have questions, and to listen to my motherly instinct to question things, and do my research.”

Kat Von D

The problem comes when the answers folks get come from misinformation, and it leads them to skip or delay their child’s vaccines, leaving them unprotected.

What is Vaccine Hesitancy?

To counter vaccine hesitancy, you likely first need to understand what it means.

“Vaccine hesitancy refers to delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccines despite availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context specific varying across time, place and vaccines. It includes factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.”

SAGE Vaccine Hesitancy Working Group

So it means someone who is anti-vaccine, right?

Not exactly.

“Although many may characterize all individuals who eschew vaccines as “anti-vaccine” or “vaccine deniers,” in reality there is a broad spectrum of individuals who choose not to have themselves or their children vaccinated.”

Tara C Smith on Vaccine Rejection and Hesitancy: A Review and Call to Action

Many of the folks who are vaccine hesitant aren’t truly anti-vaccine. They are likely being misled by anti-vaccine myths and propaganda, but at least they aren’t the ones spreading it across Facebook or on their own blogs and anti-vaccine websites.

How To Counter Vaccine Hesitancy

How do you counter vaccine hesitancy?

“It’s unfair for anyone to expect me [or any parent] to take the word of the pharmaceutical companies who have much to gain from and industry worth billions without question – and then have to dismiss any concerns of my own.”

Kat Von D

You learn to answer all of the questions and concerns that these parents might have about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, including the risks and benefits of vaccines and the risks of being unvaccinated.

“Well, if you’re going to inform yourself about vaccines, I think anybody who’s truly informed will realize that getting a vaccine is much better than not getting one. If you’re choosing not to vaccinate your child, it’s because you’re getting, frankly, bad information about vaccines.”

Paul Offit, MD

You also make sure that parents, teachers, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, reporters, and everyone else gets good information about vaccines.

And you call out the misinformation and out-right lies of the anti-vaccine movement, especially when they say that vaccines never work, are always dangerous and full of toxins, or aren’t necessary.

You don’t let parents get manipulated by the anti-vaccine industry, which has gotten very good at selling fear – literally.

Like the card trick in My Cousin Vinny, anti-vaccine talking points are easy to explain because they are all an illusion.
Like the card trick in My Cousin Vinny, anti-vaccine talking points are easy to explain away, because they are all an illusion.

Remember, there is not one anti-vaccine argument or talking point that ever holds water.

Why not?

Because unless you go cherry picking, the evidence overwhelmingly shows that vaccines work, vaccines are safe, and vaccines are necessary.

What to Know About Countering Vaccine Hesitancy

If you are on the fence or scared to vaccinate your kids, let us help you learn why vaccines are safe and necessary and arguments against vaccines never hold water.

More on Countering Vaccine Hesitancy

When Friends Disagree About Vaccines

If Facebook has taught us anything, it is that we aren’t going to agree with all of our friends about everything.

It is easy to think that your friends and family have very similar opinions as your own, especially about things like politics and religion, but only when you don’t actually talk about them.

But then you see your friends like, share, or post something that totally catches you by surprise…

What Do Your Friends Think About Vaccines?

What do you do when that surprise is that your friend or family member is anti-vaccine?

Is that something you would agree to disagree about, try to change their mind, or would it lead to the loss of a friendship? After all, it’s one thing if you are vegan and your baby is going to get exposed to eating meat when you go visit the home of a friend who is a carnivore, and quite another if she might get exposed to measles or chickenpox because they don’t believe in vaccines.

“I also warn them not to share their fears with their neighbors, because if too many people avoid the MMR, we’ll likely see the diseases increase significantly.”

Dr. Bob Sears in The Vaccine Book

But if your kids are vaccinated, why would you even be concerned about whether or not your friends vaccinate their own kids?

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Bob Sears warned folks not to share their fears of vaccines and try to hide in the herd so we didn’t see outbreaks. I wonder if he knew it might lead to a loss of friendships too…

Because your vaccinated kids are still at risk. Remember, even if your child does not have any chronic illnesses or problems with their immune system, there is the fact that kids aren’t at least partially protected against:

  • pertussis until after the third dose of DTaP at six months
  • the flu until after getting a first flu shot at six months, keeping in mind that they are actually going to need a second flu shot for full protection, since it is the first time that they are being vaccinated against influenza
  • measles, mumps, and chicken pox until they get their first dose of MMR and the chicken pox vaccine when they are 12 months old

And then, even with later booster doses of vaccines, since vaccines aren’t 100% effective, many people don’t want to take an extra risk and spend time around someone who is intentionally unprotected and at higher risk to get sick, who can then expose their kids to a vaccine-preventable diseases.

Can Your Friendship Survive the Vaccine Wars?

Friends don’t have to agree on everything.

Still, you might be more likely to lose a friend over vaccines if they are intentionally not vaccinating their kids and:

  • believe that vaccines are full of toxins
  • believe that unvaccinated kids are healthier than those who are vaccinated
  • believe that vaccines don’t ever work
  • believe that vaccine-preventable diseases are mild and can be cured with natural remedies
  • believe that they need to avoid recently vaccinated kids because they might be shedding
  • believe that vaccines are associated with autism, SIDS, and other so-called vaccine-induced diseases

Why?

It’s one thing if they are on the fence or a little scared by the myths and propaganda they see on the Internet and another if they are one of the folks helping spread that misinformation about vaccines.

What to Know About Friends and Family Disagreeing About Vaccines

Are you friends with anyone who intentionally chooses to skip or delay their child’s vaccines?

More on Friends and Family Disagreeing About Vaccine

Are You Too Scared to Vaccinate Your Kids?

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:

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.

As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks.
As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Photo by WHO

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

Which Vaccines Contain Aborted Baby Parts?

If you are already on the fence about vaccines, there are probably some you want to avoid…

For many parents, that likely means skipping all of the vaccines with aborted baby parts and fetal tissue.

Which Vaccines Contain Aborted Baby Parts?

Do vaccines really contain aborted baby parts and fetal tissue?

“Have you read the CDC’s vaccine ingredient list? Why would they list aborted baby parts as ingredients if they weren’t actually in vaccines? Just because there’s only a little baking soda in a cake doesn’t mean it’s not in there. In fact, a little baking soda can have quite the effect on a cake and the person eating it. If it’s on the label, it’s in the vaccine.”

Megan Heimer on What You Didn’t Know About the Aborted Baby Parts in Your Vaccines

Are you surprised that the CDC’s vaccine ingredient list doesn’t list aborted baby parts as ingredients of any vaccines?

It does list:

  • WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblast cells
  • MRC-5 human diploid cells

But cells are not tissues or body parts…

Cells make up tissues and tissues make up body parts, but that doesn’t sound as scary, does it?

“Given that many vaccines use aborted fetal cell tissue (where a viable fetus was medically and voluntarily aborted, not miscarried), there is clearly a valid, religious argument for not submitting to these shots.”

Sarah Pope on How to Resist Pediatrician Pro Vaccination Tactics

Immortalized cell lines, like the WI-38 and MRC-5 cell lines, even lose their tissue characteristics.

This type of anti-vaccine propaganda is likely why so many anti-vaccine folks still think that aborted baby parts and fetal tissue are ingredients in vaccines.

The Pontifical Academy for Life reaffirmed the "lawfulness" of using vaccines to protect children and those around them.
The Pontifical Academy for Life reaffirmed the “lawfulness” of using vaccines to protect children and those around them.

They aren’t. Not in any vaccine.

Some vaccines are made with fetal embryo fibroblast cells (the WI-38 and MRC-5 cells) from cell lines that are derived (they can replicate infinitely) from two electively terminated pregnancies (abortions) in the 1960s. That certainly does not mean that any vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue or baby parts though.

Those original cells aren’t even involved in making these vaccines any more.

The cells used today have been copied, over and over again. They are descendant cells, which is why a common way to explain all of this, is to say that vaccines are said to have a “distant association with abortion.”

And even then, the cells are removed before the final vaccine is produced.

That’s why the National Catholic Bioethics Center states that that:

“One is morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion. The reason is that the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine. This is especially important for parents, who have a moral obligation to protect the life and health of their children and those around them.”

And why it is said that Catholics are “morally free to use the vaccine regardless of its historical association with abortion” and that “it should be obvious that vaccine use in these cases does not contribute directly to the practice of abortion since the reasons for having an abortion are not related to vaccine preparation.”

What To Know About Vaccines, Abortion & Fetal Tissue

Vaccines are safe and necessary and do not contain aborted fetal tissue or body parts, although some do have a distant association with abortion.

More on Vaccines, Abortion & Fetal Tissue

Immunization Education Agreement

Having disagreements about getting kids vaccinated and protected are not rare these days.

“Many parents have questions about their children’s vaccines, and answering their questions can help parents feel confident in choosing to immunize their child according to the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule.”

CDC on Talking to Parents about Vaccines

They never were though.

The anti-vaccine movement, concerns about the pain from the shots, and worry about side effects have been around for as long as there have been vaccines.

Options When You Disagree About Vaccines

So what should you do if you disagree with someone about vaccines and you don’t want to get your child vaccinated?

It depends on who it is.

For example, if the person you disagree with is your pediatrician, then simply arguing about it likely isn’t a good idea, on either side.

Most pediatricians understand that many vaccine-hesitant parents are simply scared because of things they read and see on the Internet and they want to help you get educated, see through the myths and misinformation that are out there, and eventually get caught up and vaccinated.

They understand that terminating the physician-patient relationship over vaccines truly is a last resort for “when a substantial level of distrust develops, significant differences in the philosophy of care emerge, or poor quality of communication persists.”

Immunization Education Agreement

So what can you do besides arguing?

Will you agree to get educated about vaccines?
Will you agree to get educated about vaccines using recommended and reliable sources of information?

Pediatricians and other health care providers can agree to get better educated about all of the different ways to talk to vaccine-hesitant parents.

And vaccine-hesitant parents can agree to get educated about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases using books and websites that are recommended by their provider.

Reassure your pediatrician that you are not done talking about vaccines and agree to get educated about vaccines:

Immunization Education Agreement Form

Even if you think that you have already done enough research, do just a little more. And then talk to you pediatrician again. And again if you have to.

Vaccines are safe. Vaccines are necessary. Don’t let anyone scare you into thinking that they aren’t.

What to Know About the Immunization Agreement

Whether you find yourself on opposite sides about immunizations with a friend, your spouse, an ex, or your pediatrician, agree to get educated about vaccines using these recommended and reliable sources of information and then talk about it some more.

More on the Immunization Education Agreement

We Don’t Know How To Talk About Vaccines

There is a dirty little secret about vaccines that people don’t seem to like to talk about.

No, it’s not about toxins or autism.

“Our systematic review did not reveal any convincing evidence on effective interventions to address parental vaccine hesitancy and refusal. We found a large number of studies that evaluated interventions for increasing immunization coverage rates such as the use of reminder/recall systems, parent, community-wide, and provider-based education and incentives as well as the effect of government and school immunization policies.

However, very few intervention studies measured outcomes linked to vaccine refusal such as vaccination rates in refusing parents, intent to vaccinate, or change in attitudes toward vaccines.

Most of the studies included in the analysis were observational studies that were either under-powered or provided indirect evidence.”

Sadaf et al on A systematic review of interventions for reducing parental vaccine refusal and vaccine hesitancy

It’s that we don’t really know how to talk about vaccines to vaccine hesitant parents, at least not in a way that we know will consistently get them to vaccinate and protect their kids.

Understanding Studies About Vaccine Hesitancy

Sure, a lot of studies have been done about talking to vaccine hesitant parents.

We have all seen the headlines:

  • Study: You Can’t Change an Anti-Vaxxer’s Mind
  • Pro-vaccine messages can boost belief in MMR myths, study shows
  • UWA study shows attacking alternative medicines is not the answer to get parents to vaccinate kids
  • Training Doctors To Talk About Vaccines Fails To Sway Parents

Does that mean that you shouldn’t try to talk to vaccine hesitant parents?

Of course not.

“How providers initiate and pursue vaccine recommendations is associated with parental vaccine acceptance.”

Opel et al on The Architecture of Provider-Parent Vaccine Discussions at Health Supervision Visits

Just understand that these headlines are usually about small studies, which if they were about treating a child with asthma or strep throat,  likely wouldn’t change how you do things.

Why do anti-vaccine websites still post misinformation about fake recommendations to stop breastfeeding?
Why do people continue to believe misinformation about fake recommendations to stop breastfeeding?

In one study that concluded that “physician-targeted communication intervention did not reduce maternal vaccine hesitancy or improve physician self-efficacy,” the physicians got a total of 45 minutes of training!

So they shouldn’t have so much influence about how you might talk to parents about vaccines that you throw up your hands at the thought of talking to a vaccine hesitant parent and won’t even think about learning how to use the CASE method, why presumptive language might work, or about vaccination-focused motivational interviewing techniques.

The bottom line is that no matter what the headlines say, we just haven’t found the best way to talk to vaccine-hesitant parents and help them overcome their cognitive biases. And until more studies are done, none of the existing studies about anti-vaccine myth-busting should likely overly influence how you do things.

“Physicians should aim for both parental satisfaction and a positive decision to vaccinate. Researchers must continue to develop conceptually clear, evidence-informed, and practically implementable approaches to parental vaccine hesitancy, and agencies need to commit to supporting the evidence base. Billions of dollars fund the research and development of vaccines to ensure their efficacy and safety. There needs to be a proportional commitment to the “R&D” of vaccine acceptance because vaccines are only effective if people willingly take them up.”

Leask et al on Physician Communication With Vaccine-Hesitant Parents: The Start, Not the End, of the Story

If you spend any time talking to vaccine hesitant parents, especially those who are on the fence, you quickly learn that many are eager to get good information about vaccines and all want to do what is best for their kids.

It’s just hard for many of them to do what is best when their decisions are getting influenced by vaccine scare videos and many of the 100s of myths about vaccines that are out there.

“…while the drivers of vaccine hesitancy are well documented, effective intervention strategies for addressing the issue are sorely lacking. Here, we argue that this may be because existing strategies have been guided more by intuition than by insights from psychology and by the erroneous assumption that humans act rationally.”

Rossen et al on Going with the Grain of Cognition: Applying Insights from Psychology to Build Support for Childhood Vaccination

So while we need more studies on the best ways to talk to vaccine hesitant parents, don’t dismiss all of the ways that might be effective, such as:

It is also important to become familiar with the myths and anti-vaccine talking points that may be scaring your patients away from getting vaccinated on time.

Why is this important?

If a parent is concerned about glyphosate, you might not sound too convincing telling them not to worry if you don’t even know what glyphosate is.

What to Know About Vaccine Hesitancy Studies

While we learn better ways to talk about vaccines, so that vaccine-hesitant parents can more easily understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, don’t dismiss current strategies because of small studies and attention grabbing headlines.

More on Vaccine Hesitancy Studies