The main comparison:
“Just like our digital devices perform better after we’ve updated the software, our immune systems work more effectively in response to vaccines.”
When to use this issue frame:
- Use this metaphor early and often in public discourse. It reminds people of the collective risks of contagion and the collective benefits of vaccination, and helps to normalize the need for routine vaccination, booster shots, and the like.
- When a new vaccine becomes available or recommendations change, compare them to familiar scenarios like the latest release of a popular smartphone. This helps to frame the changes as beneficial, expected, and normal.
- When discussing the need for booster shots or annual immunizations, this metaphor can help to reduce thinking that repeated doses mean the vaccine doesn’t “work.”
Practical suggestions for use:
- You can vary the digital device (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.) and the type of update (anti-virus software, operating system updates, etc.).
- Consistently include the idea that digital devices are connected to networks, e.g., the internet, rather than operating entirely on their own. This lets you explain—in simple, accessible terms—that infectious disease operates at the level of population health.
- Describe the immune system’s response with words that come from the digital domain. For example, you can talk about how after an “update,” the immune system can “detect” threats more quickly and effectively.
- This metaphor can be used to talk about vaccines that prevent bacterial or fungal diseases, not just diseases caused by viruses.
- Avoid images that could suggest that technology is being put inside people, as this might spark fear or reinforce the misperception that vaccines include “microchips.”
To learn more about the research behind this metaphor, see Reframing the Conversation about Child and Adolescent Vaccinations.