To build public support for policies that increase access to childhood immunizations in the United States, communicators need to shift the focus from the individual to the collective and shift the emphasis on vaccines fighting disease to the immune system preparing itself.
Five framing strategies can help to accomplish these essential shifts. Keep them top-of-mind with this summary.
Individual → Collective
- Foreground the common good.
Individualism dominates American thinking about health in general, and even more so when it comes to vaccination. That makes it critical that we keep the concept of the common good present in the public discourse. Outside the context of 1:1 vaccination counseling, lead with the collective benefits of widespread immunization.
- Make the story about access, not uptake.
Describe access to vaccination as a key to keeping communities healthy by preventing the spread of severe and deadly illnesses. Give examples of practical barriers that make it costly or difficult for families to keep up with the recommended schedule of childhood immunizations, then point to concrete policies or programs that could remove them.
- Make the rewards of childhood vaccination more tangible by emphasizing the benefits of keeping kids healthy.
Don’t dwell on the idea that vaccines protect children from disease. Shift to a promotion frame by connecting vaccination to the benefits of health and wellbeing. Talk about the immediate developmental tasks they can engage in, and the longer-term benefits of a long, healthy life free from the threats of serious illnesses.
Vaccines → Immune Systems
- Use a software updates metaphor to explain how the immune system improves its performance through vaccination.
Compare vaccines to computer or cell phone updates to explain how vaccines help the body stay safe from “network” viruses. Talk about the impacts that vaccines have on the immune system in terms of “detecting” viruses and responding to them, just like software updates on a computer or cell phone.
- Use a literacy metaphor to explain how the immune system learns how to respond to viruses through vaccination.
Compare vaccines to “beginner texts” that the immune system uses to learn to “read” and “comprehend” a virus. Talk about how early vaccination allows children’s developing immune systems to prepare themselves to respond to and resist infectious diseases.
Next: Talking Points (Est. 3 minute read)