The saying “you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar” came to mind while reading comments on a recent blog post about vaccines. The subject of vaccines has become a very sensitive topic as immunizations have been falsely linked to autism and described as nothing more than “toxic cocktails” that endanger the well-being of our children. These not so glowing portrayals of the medications proven to save lives all over the world have incited passionate outcries from both pro and anti-vaccine advocates alike. Unfortunately that very passion is all too often expressed through anger filled words and judgmental observations. After leaving supportive comments on a fellow pro-vaccine advocates’ blog this past weekend, I was hit with some extremely harsh comments. I will admit, as a person who stands behind and openly supports vaccinations for people of all ages, it was difficult not to snap back with a few negative comments of my own, but after taking a moment I realized that hateful words would accomplish nothing. My response was backed by scientific evidence that spoke for itself. Harsh words and negativity will never draw anyone to see your side. In fact it will do just the opposite.
So what are a few effective methods when talking to someone who is vaccine hesitant or anti-vaccine? In my opinion and through my experiences, listen. Listen to the fears, the concerns, the accusations and the statistics that are thrown your way. By acknowledging that you have heard the other person’s side you may just get the same in return. Just as important, make sure to cite credible and reliable sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) when discussing the safety and efficacy of vaccines. Another effective option that has proven to help me convey my message is to make it personal. Explain why it is important that you and your family are up-to-date on vaccinations and why choosing whether or not to vaccinate affects more than just your immediate family. Having a child who was hospitalized as a direct result of being unprotected from a vaccine-preventable disease, I am able to share my experience and show that these diseases still exist and are a real threat to the unimmunized. And finally, be respectful. Vaccines play such an important role in our lives and it’s sometimes difficult to convey that message to someone who bases their stance on discredited studies and conspiracy theories, but don’t let your emotions get the best of you. You will make more of an impact if you rely on the science that speaks for itself.
Always remember that there are two sides to every argument. In this case one is supported by scientific evidence and factual information and one is not. As vaccine advocates, all we can do is present the facts that prove the life-saving power of immunizations. At the end of the day, we may have to agree to disagree, but it can always be done in a respectful and adult-like manner. So before you speak, make sure you are using honey, not vinegar.