The evidence-based framing strategies provided in this toolkit can be effective with audiences who lack confidence in vaccinations or health experts. In fact, it’s vital that trusted messengers engage in public-facing vaccine education in contexts where skepticism abounds. This is because it’s more effective to inoculate against misunderstanding than it is to try to correct misinformation after people have heard it.
Yet, it’s also important to take your audience into account. Here are some special considerations for communications aimed at people who express skepticism about vaccines but may still be open to listening. (See the resource Responding to Vaccine Deniers in Public for more guidance on communicating in highly adversarial contexts.)
- Take extra care with tone. Remember to stay positive. Actively demonstrate that you are a caring person. Don’t suggest that people who lack vaccine confidence also lack intelligence or concern for others.
- Build urgency carefully. Don’t try to scare people into getting children vaccinated by painting worst-case scenarios of the risks of a disease. Instead, talk about the important developmental tasks before children, and emphasize that they are time-sensitive. Then, bridge to the importance of keeping kids healthy through on-time immunization.
- Respond to concerns about “artificial” interventions by comparing immunization to building literacy. Don’t get bogged down in a dead-end debate about inherent and acquired immunity. Keep the focus on the body’s immune system and what it needs to be ready to recognize and resist a disease. Compare the vaccine to a beginner text that the body uses to learn to “read” a virus.
- Don’t pit individual autonomy against the greater good. In writing, avoid framing that suggests that personal beliefs or preferences don’t matter when it comes to vaccination. Instead, make a strong case for the role that childhood and adolescent vaccination play in a healthy society. Keep the focus on the idea that equitable and easy access to immunizations is essential to preventing the spread of disease.
Next: Responding to Vaccine Deniers in Public (Est. 5 minute read)