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Reframing the Conversation about Child and Adolescent Vaccinations

The purpose of this brief is to equip physicians, advocates, and public health communicators with the strategies necessary to effectively build understanding of and support for child and adolescent vaccinations.
January 26, 2023

The public conversation about childhood and adolescent vaccinations in the United States has been, at times, controversial, fraught, and in some cases, deeply emotional. How vaccinations are talked about publicly plays a critically important role in shaping attitudes about vaccines and their benefits, as well as shaping public support for policies that increase access to vaccines. How those public conversations are framed—what we say, how we say it, what we emphasize, and what we leave unsaid—can help or hinder progress toward the ultimate goal of ensuring the health of children and adolescents through vaccination.

This strategic brief includes five evidence-based recommendations for communicating about vaccinations:

  1. Talk about the benefits of vaccination for the common good.

  2. Talk about improving vaccination access as a preventive public health measure.

  3. Focus on how vaccines are beneficial to children’s and adolescents’ long-term health and wellbeing.

  4. Use a computer updates metaphor to explain how the immune system improves its performance through vaccination.

  5. Use a literacy metaphor to explain how the immune system learns how to respond to viruses through vaccination.