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How to Persuade Parents to Vaccinate Their Kids

childhood vaccines, immunizations and safety

He won't like it, but it's safe.

It’s National Infant Immunization Week, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is honoring individuals who are trying to reverse a growing trend of by-passing some or all vaccines against debilitating and potentially life-threatening childhood diseases. On Thursday, the United Nations Foundation starts its Shot@Life campaign — an attempt to draw attention to how immunizations are saving children’s lives in impoverished countries around the globe.

Some states are even considering getting rid of “philosophical exemptions” as a part of their mandatory immunization policies, according to a report on vaccines in this week’s TIME.

But forcing families to have their children submit to shots isn’t much of an approach in the U.S. We’re used to thinking of medicine as an individual choice, we’re used to saying “no” when we feel like it.

So another doctor, Greg Poland, wrote up some talking points for doctors which he hopes will be effective in not just getting parents to immunize their kids — but getting parents to better understand what vaccinations are and why we don’t need to fear them. Poland’s study is in the journal Human Immunology.

Poland’s approach is to focus on the big numbers, not the small ones. For example, according to TIME, he tells patients who worry that a round of vaccines will harm their child in some way:

“Look, there are 2,000 physicians at the Mayo Clinic, and as best we can tell, all their kids have received vaccinations. Do you really think doctors would give their kids these vaccines if for a millisecond they believed there was more harm than benefit?”

Or for the mom whose son suffered a seizure or eczema outbreak following shots:

Poland points out that chance alone dictates that some people will be coincidentally diagnosed with disease or suffer a loss soon after being immunized. “Say a woman has a miscarriage after being vaccinated,” says Poland. “There are 17,000 miscarriages a year. The vaccine did not cause the miscarriage. It would have happened anyway.”

He has responses for the top three immunity related misconceptions, which you can read over at TIME. For the idea that natural immunity is safer and better (and, therefore, let’s have a chicken pox party), here’s how he responds:

Natural immunity is not better. Take chickenpox, for example. Each year, 100 U.S. kids die from complications. Plus, once you’re exposed, the virus lies dormant for decades, then reemerges as shingles in 50% of people who live to age 80.

I think we as a society are long overdue for a refresher course on statistics, logical reasoning and cell biology. But I understand doctors only have so much time to spend with a patient.

What would it take to convince you vaccines are safe and necessary?

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