Experiment shows how to change the minds of anti-vaccine parents

Rob Waugh
Many doctors and nurses are helping to vaccinate to protect a disease for a baby.

Lies about the supposed ‘dangers’ of vaccines are spreading online, leading parents to refuse to vaccinate their children – in the mistaken belief shots might make them ill.

But there could be a way to fight back against the spread of this misinformation, a new study has shown – introducing ‘anti-vaxxers’ to people
who have suffered from vaccine preventable diseases.

Brian Poole, associate professor of microbiology and molecular biology at BYU said, ‘Vaccines are victims of their own success.

‘They’re so effective that most people have no experience with vaccine preventable diseases. We need to reacquaint people with the dangers of those diseases.’

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Student volunteers were introduced to people who had suffered from tuberculosis and shingles – and who described their pain and suffering.

The researchers found that 70% of students who interviewed people with the diseases moved from being ‘vaccine hesitant’ to pro-vaccine by the end of the study.

Poole said, If your goal is to affect people’s decisions about vaccines, this process works much better than trying to combat anti-vaccine information

‘It shows people that these diseases really are serious diseases, with painful and financial costs, and people need to take them seriously.’
Figures out last month from Unicef showed that over half a million children in the UK were unvaccinated against measles between 2010 and 2017.

Children need two doses of the vaccine for protection, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommending 95% coverage to achieve herd immunity to stop the disease spreading.

In the UK in 2017, there were 259 measles cases in England, rising to 966 in 2018.

In 2016 and 2017, uptake of the first dose of the MMR vaccine in five-year-olds in the UK exceeded 95%.

But uptake of the second dose of MMR in five-year-old children is 88% – well below the 95% WHO target.

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