I Am Surrounded By Idiots

…who don’t vaccinate their children. That’s how I feel today anyway, since I am currently a few weeks into the joy of adult-onset Pertussis, more popularly known as “whooping cough” – there is a big uptick in cases in Surrey and South-West London at the moment. Not-entirely-coincidentally, uptake of the Pertussis booster vaccine is very low in at least one London borough, Wandsworth.

However once I get my irritation over my personal circumstances to one side, vaccination uptake is an interesting area.There will always be those convinced that vaccination is the work of the devil, but for the rest of us there are still some deep issues that people need to get past. Some of the issues thrown up in presentations like this:

  • ambiguity or doubts about the reliability of vaccine information, helped by the media “showing balance”
  • a preference for errors of omission over errors of commission
  • instinctive aversion to putting pathogens inside ones child
  • personal acquaintance with someone who thinks vaccines have damaged their child.
  • recognition that if many other children are vaccinated, the risk to unvaccinated children may be lowered

All of these need different strategies to counter:

  • Information could be improved by having a better web presence that was not funded by pharma companies (as part of the problem is distrust of those companies).
  • Omission/commission is an intuitive bias that is hard to counter – obviously not doing something is just as much of a choice as doing something, but this is hard to put across clearly.
  • Instinctive aversion is also hard to counter. A start would be to at least acknowledge that people feel uncomfortable about this, and to explain why they feel this way – rather than to dismiss their feelings out of hand.
  • Personal experience is very powerful. But this can be also used positively, eg by pointing up incidence of vaccination among the health procession.
  • Relying on others to provide herd immunity could be countered by explaining how some people really need others to provide herd immunity, because they are immunocompromised – so relying on herd immunity for a healthy child is re-framed as taking resources from sick people.

And in fairness, it is very easy to see associations where none exist – for instance, when one of my own children had just been vaccinated, they vomited that night. “Aha, side effects” I thought to myself. Then I started vomiting too. As did my other child. Because we all had a stomach bug.

Think I will look for more research in the vaccination uptake field. Once I can stop puking whenever I cough.

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