In Washington state, just over 77 percent of children under 3 are fully vaccinated. Washington ranks eighth in the nation for overall vaccination rates in that age group, yet for some childhood immunizations, such as polio, Washington is underperforming.
A recent study of parents in Northshore and Bellingham found that positive messages from peers may help. “Most people choose to vaccinate themselves and their children against contagious diseases,” says Clarissa Hsu, PhD, Assistant Investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. “But not everyone may realize that, because negative messages about vaccines circulate so widely in the media. It can be really powerful for parents to learn how very many other families are choosing vaccination.”
Prevention is a pillar of Kaiser Permanente’s mission to improve health, and Kaiser Permanente Washington is helping lead the way toward full vaccination. The Washington State Department of Health recently recognized three of our medical centers as Gold Level providers in the 2017 Immunize Washington project. Here’s how you can help influence your friends and family to help prevent disease outbreaks.
5 Positive approaches you can use to change minds about vaccines
Keep the following guidelines in mind when discussing vaccines with friends and family:
- Stay positive: Don’t let discussions about vaccines turn into an argument.
- Find common ground: Acknowledge that all parents want to protect their children and make good decisions.
- Be non-judgmental: Don’t criticize, judge, shame, or confront—which can backfire and make people hold tighter to their positions.
- Use “I” language: “Here’s why my family and I choose vaccination.”
- Politely disengage from negative situations: If another parent becomes angry, thank them and say goodbye for now.
The facts about vaccines
“When parents have productive conversations about vaccines, it resembles the way that we doctors talk with our ‘vaccine-hesitant’ patients,” says John Dunn, MD, MPH, a Kaiser Permanente Washington pediatrician who is also assistant medical director of preventive care. Some of the points Dr. Dunn shares with patients include:
- The benefits of vaccination are much greater than any harm.
- The risks from contagious diseases far outweigh those from vaccines.
- Vaccines work best when a high proportion of people in a community are immunized against a contagious disease.
- And this “community immunity” helps to protect everyone—including those who can’t receive vaccines, such as people with severe immune system problems.
Increasing vaccination rates with positivity
The results of the study suggest that positive, non-judgmental methods of persuasion can change behavior:
- The number of parents who described themselves as “vaccine hesitant” fell from 1 in 4 to about 1 in 7.
- The number of parents who said they were concerned about other people not vaccinating their kids rose from around 8 in 10 to around 9 in 10.
- More parents knew the vaccination rates at their children’s childcare or school.
- Fewer parents thought children receive vaccines at too young an age.
- And more parents were confident that vaccinating their children was a good decision.
Join the Immunity Community
Become a member of the Immunity Community for information and resources that will help you amplify your voice and make a positive impact on children’s’ health.