When talking with vaccine-hesitant friends or relatives, it’s tempting to list and cite the overwhelming evidence that vaccines are safe, effective, and vital to public health. But for many, this is an emotional issue, not a scientific one. Acknowledging and addressing the emotional side of the vaccination conversation (in addition to the cold, hard science) can go a long way in demonstrating to our loved ones how important immunizations are. Here’s how:
Choose Your Facts Carefully
The facts overwhelmingly state that vaccines are safe and effective, but it’s important to be judicious when choosing facts to make your case. The goal should be to make this issue personal. A study about vaccine safety isn’t as likely to be effective as, say, the number of deaths vaccines prevent each year, or the infant mortality rate before the advent of modern vaccines. By using data about the human impact of vaccinations, you’ll touch their brain and their hearts.
Tell a Story
Stories are one of the best methods to bring life to the data and statistics. By going past the logical parts of our brain, a compelling story can often be more convincing than any study. Stories of individuals and families affected by vaccine-preventable diseases—like those available on ShotByShot.Org— can be powerful arguments in your favor. Stories can linger in people’s minds long after they’ve forgotten the scientific sound bites.
Another great way to help facilitate an emotional tie-in? Pictures. Descriptions of the symptoms of measles are unlikely to sway opinions, but a picture of the red eyes and rashes it causes might make someone think twice. The CDC has a section on its website devoted to photos showing the damage vaccine-preventable diseases can cause.
Give Them a Solution
An emotional appeal works best when it can be paired with a simple action; luckily, vaccines provide just that. Once you’ve chosen which facts to highlight, and provided stories and photographs to augment those facts, it’s time to present the “call to action”: Get up to date on your vaccine schedule as soon as possible!