You see them on the streets, demonstrating against the COVID-19 measures, you see them on Social Media spreading fake news and conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic. They completely neglect scientific facts and what most of these people have in common: They are hardcore anti-vaxxers, spreading disinformation like the vaccine contains microchips, the vaccine will change your DNA or healthy people will be severely disabled or die after getting vaccinated. What if one of your beloved ones is trapped in the “Querdenken” scene?
Conversations about vaccines do not necessarily have to be controversial
In fact, being willing to have them is one of the most powerful ways we can influence global health. As with many emotionally charged topics, it can be difficult to know how to start the conversation. These tips should help you open a dialogue and get your loved ones to think differently about vaccination.
Find a common value platform
We all want similar things – healthy families and communities and a sense of control over our health. Try to explain why you choose to vaccinate. Is it to protect the most vulnerable members of your community? Is it to protect your children from preventable diseases? Such understandable motivations can help establish a human connection and get to the emotional core of the issue.
Just as there are many reasons to get vaccinated, there are also many reasons that might make a person doubt it. One common factor is misinformation, which in our digital age is more contagious than ever. Also, there are people afraid of being vaccinated due to their medical background, fearing the vaccine would rather harm but protect them.
Have you heard about the 3-C formula yet? The World Health Organisation (WHO) has formulated the “3 C’s” that contribute to vaccine rejection: complacency, convenience and confidence. We could add a fourth C: culture. The prevalence of resentment and the factors that contribute to it vary greatly depending on a person’s geography, cultural background and social context. If we are aware of these differences, we can avoid making wrong assumptions. If someone is skipping recommended vaccinations because of religious beliefs, it may not be helpful or relevant to start a conversation with safety statistics.
Dispelling myths can be hard, but did you know that repeating misinformation can actually give it more weight? Instead of focusing on why a claim, rumour or blog post is false, stick to simple statements of fact. For example, “Large-scale scientific studies find no link between the HPV vaccine and autoimmune symptoms”.
Be the voice of the majority – not of the anti-vaxxers minority
Social norms are an incredibly powerful force, but the key is to see them positively. If you try to convince someone that not enough people are getting vaccinated, it might confirm your counterpart’s hesitation. A more effective approach is to focus on how many people are choosing to vaccinate and why. Remind them that large-scale vaccination is a group effort.
Identify their problem – and give a solution
Fear of a serious illness can be paralyzing. It is counterproductive to only talk about the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases as a way to instill fear. Instead, it is important to acknowledge two facts at once: These diseases are serious and getting vaccinated is a simple and effective countermeasure.
How can you react?
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is the German’s government’s central scientific institution in the field of biomedicine. It is one of the most important bodies for the safeguarding of public health in Germany. It has published answers how you can approach people doubting vaccine. I chose four out of those 20 items (https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/Infekt/Impfen/Bedeutung/Schutzimpfungen_20_Einwaende.html)
- “The effectiveness of vaccinations has never been proven.”
Many successful stories prove the opposite. For example, Polio: The vaccination was introduced in the early 1960ies. Whereas in 1961 almost 4.700 children got infected in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1965 it was less than 50 children.
- “None of the claimed pathogens (=viruses) has been seen, isolated and proven to exist.”
No pathogen, no vaccination: Vaccines are usually produced on the basis of attenuated or inactivated pathogens. Without specific knowledge about these pathogens, systematic development of vaccines would not have been possible.
- “The side effects and risks of vaccinations are incalculable.”
Particularly in the past years there has been a dispute about whether autism, diabetes or even multiple sclerosis could be caused by vaccinations. However, there is still no proof of this, and the results of numerous studies speak against a connection between vaccinations and the mentioned diseases.
- “The decline in diseases is a result of improved hygiene and nutrition and has nothing to do with vaccinations.”
While it is true that, for example, measles is often particularly severe in malnourished children, a disease develops in almost everyone who is unprotected and ingests the measles virus. The more people are protected from measles, the likelihood of coming into contact with the virus – because chains of infection are interrupted. (“herd protection”). When over 95% of the population has immune protection against measles, it will be possible to eradicate measles completely.
What else can you do?
Get vaccinated against Covid-19. Inform on your social media channels how you feel after you have received the vaccine. This could convince undecided people to get vaccinated after all and thus contribute to keeping themselves and their beloved ones around them healthy. However, in order to prevent faking vaccination passports, please do not share pictures of the Covid-19 stickers showing the Lot number or the QR code you receive from the health authorities after having been vaccinated.
Need more information?
If you are interested in more health topics, feel free to participate in our working group Health, which I am chairing. You will find more information about the working group here: https://elfr-blog.eu/elfr/elfr-working-groups/wg-health
Also I would like to invite you to our webinar “How can we prevent future pandemics” with Prof. Saikat Basu M.D. from South Dakota University on Tuesday, 7th of December at 20:30 CET on Zoom.
You will find more information about our free-of-charge webinar here: https://elfr-blog.eu/event/european-liberals-for-reform-webinar-how-can-we-prevent-future-pandemics-with-saikat-basu-ph-d
The opinions on this blog are of the authors themselves and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of ELfR.