Tag: regret

Who Is Ethan Lindenberger?

As most folks know, Ethan Lindenberger is the Ohio teen who got himself vaccinated over the objections of his mother, who had always believed that vaccines are dangerous.

He recently testified in Washington, D.C. before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing, Vaccines Save Lives: What Is Driving Preventable Disease Outbreaks?

Who Is Ethan Lindenberger?

Not surprisingly, Ethan Lindenberger is getting a lot of attention lately.

Unfortunately, not all of it has been good.

Of course there are conspiracy theories about Ethan Linderberger and his mother…

Along the way to getting vaccinated and a trip to Capitol Hill, he has been attacked on social media from anti-vaccine folks who must see him as some kind of threat.

I remember speaking with my mother about vaccines, and at one point in our discussion she claimed a link existed between vaccines and autism. In response, I presented evidence from the CDC which claimed directly in large bold letters, “There is no link between vaccines and autism.” Within the same article from the CDC on their official website, extensive evidence and studies from the institute of medicine (IOM) were cited. Most would assume when confronted with such strong proof, there would be serious consideration that your views are incorrect. This was not the case for my mother, as her only response was, “that’s what they want you to think.”

Ethan Lindenberger

Now that she sees that “they” have made up conspiracy theories about her own son, will Ethan’s mother understand how the anti-vaccine movement works?

“Conversations like these were what reaffirmed the evidence in defense of vaccinations and proved to me, at least on an anecdotal level, that anti-vaccine beliefs are deeply rooted in misinformation. Despite this, a necessary clarification must be made when discussing this misinformation: anti-vaccine individuals do not root their opinions in malice, but rather a true concern for themselves and other people. Although it may not seem to be true because of the serious implications of choosing not to vaccinate, the entire anti-vaccine movement has gained so much traction because of this fear and concern that vaccines are dangerous.”

Ethan Lindenberger

Who is scaring everyone about vaccines and creating all of this misinformation?

In his testimony, Ethan identified some people that will be familiar to everyone who works to combat anti-vaccine misinformation, including Bob Sears, Del Bigtree, and Larry Cook.

“My story highlights this misinformation and how it spreads. Between social media platforms, to using a parent’s love as a tool, these lies cause people to distrust in vaccination, furthering the impact of a preventable disease outbreak and even contributing to the cause of diseases spreading. This needs to change and I only hope my story contributes to such advancements.”

Ethan Lindenberger

We are lucky that Ethan told his story.

It’s an important story and hopefully everyone who is thinking about skipping or delaying their child’s vaccines will listen to it.

More on Ethan Lindenberger

Where Are All of the Vaccine Advocates?

With more outbreaks and increased talk of vaccine exemptions, one thing often gets lost.

Most people vaccinate and protect their kids because they understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

Where Are All of the Vaccine Advocates?

Unfortunately, unlike the highly vocal minority of folks who are against vaccines, we rarely hear from vaccine advocates.

There are a lot of them out there though.

And we are finally starting to hear more about them!

“One woman took four of her kids for the M.M.R. that week.”

Amid a Measles Outbreak, an Ultra-Orthodox Nurse Fights Vaccination Fears in Her Community

Like the story of a nurse in Brooklyn who is educating vaccine-hesitant parents in the middle of a measles outbreak.

And how vaccine-hesitant parents in Oregon are attending vaccine workshops to learn about vaccines from medical professionals.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In exit surveys, the vast majority of people who attend our workshops say they’ve decided to vaccinate their children as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

How do you get anti-vaxxers to vaccinate their kids? Talk to them — for hours.

Had you heard their stories yet?

How about the story about the mom who started the group South Carolina Parents for Vaccines?

“Nelson tries to counter bad information online with facts. But she also understands the value of in-person dialogue. She organized a class at a public library and advertised the event on mom forums.”

A Parent-To-Parent Campaign To Get Vaccine Rates Up

Did you know that a mom in Colorado, who started the group Community Immunity, put up a billboard to help raise immunization rates in her community?

Or that a group of parents formed Vaccinate California and helped support the passage of SB 277 and improved vaccination rates in California?

Did you know that there are similar immunization advocacy groups in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington?

Other communities have Immunization Coalitions and Facebook groups to help answer questions and educate parents about vaccines.

Are you ready to join these vaccine advocates?

More on All of the Vaccine Advocates

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

Why Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Panicking over the Measles Outbreaks?

Do you sense something in the air?

No, it’s not measles.

Ever notice that it is folks who don't vaccinate who use words like epidemic and panic whenever we have large measles outbreaks?
Ever notice that it is folks who don’t vaccinate who use words like epidemic and panic whenever we have large measles outbreaks?

It is talk of panic about measles.

Why Are Anti-Vaccine Folks Panicking over the Measles Outbreaks?

I’m not panicking.

I am definitively concerned about these outbreaks, because I understand that they put a lot of folks at unnecessary risk for getting a life-threatening disease. And I understand that these outbreaks are getting harder and harder to control, but ultimately, since more and more people get vaccinated during an outbreak, they will eventually end.

So why are anti-vaccine folks panicking?

Yes, your immune system gets to a whole new level after a natural measles infection - it resets.
Yes, your immune system gets to a whole new level after a natural measles infection – it resets.

It’s easier to be anti-vaccine and leave your kids unvaccinated and unprotected when you don’t think that you are taking much of a risk.

You likely still know it’s wrong, so cognitive dissonance pushes you to believe that vaccines don’t work, vaccine-preventable diseases aren’t that bad, vaccines are full of poison, or that you can just hide in the herd.

It gets much harder during an outbreak, when you realize that it is almost all intentionally unvaccinated kids getting sick. And typically an intentionally unvaccinated child or adult who starts the outbreak.

Why wait until an outbreak starts to get your kids vaccinated and protected or to start recommending that your patients be vaccinated and protected?
Why wait until an outbreak starts to get your kids vaccinated and protected or to start recommending that your patients be vaccinated and protected?

Is my child going to start an outbreak?

If measles is so mild, why do so many of these folks go to the ER multiple times and why do some of them get hospitalized. Why do people still die with measles?

Full Stop! Someone did die during the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington.
Full Stop! Someone did die during the 2015 measles outbreaks in Washington.

That’s when the panic starts to set in.

Are you really doing what’s right for your child?

Who are these people I’m getting advice from and what’s their motivation?

The only "mass hysteria" is in anti-vaccine Facebook groups. Is Larry Cook using it to raise money for himself?
The only “mass hysteria” is in anti-vaccine Facebook groups. Is Larry Cook using it to raise money for himself?

Am I really supposed to skip my kid’s MMR because they did a Brady Bunch episode about all of the Brady kids getting measles?

Will I regret not vaccinating my child?

Why don’t any of the people in my Facebook groups who talk about how marvelous measles used to be in the old days talk about how they called it a “harmless killer?”

Of course, there is an easy way to stop worrying and panicking about measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases – get your kids vaccinated and protected. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on Measles Panic