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Have a HEART When You Talk About Vaccines

Do you find yourself being inundated with information in the media about immunizations these days? Do you want to speak out, but just don’t know what to say, or how to say it? Measles this, mumps that. Personal belief exemptions – are they good or bad? What do I do if my child’s school vaccination rate is really low? How can I talk to other parents about vaccinations? What can I do?
So many questions are circulating around the internet and social media. Friends that I haven’t talked to in years have been coming out of the woodwork with questions, or wanting to know how to get involved. The silent majority of parents (71% in WA) that immunize are starting to become louder and want their voices to be heard.
At WithinReach, through our partnership with Vax Northwest, we’ve developed a program we call the Immunity Community where we teach parents to become immunization advocates in their communities, schools, child cares, or parents’ groups and to have a respectful, honest conversation about immunizations. We encourage parents to speak from their HEART and we’ve developed and tested 5 simple steps you can take the next time you find yourself in a conversation with your barista, PTA president, etc.
When you are having a conversation about vaccines, try the H-E-A-R-T (Hear, Empathize, Analyze, Resources, Tell) Method:
1. Hear: The first and best thing you can do is to really listen to her concerns and questions. Really hear what her fears are about vaccines. Organize your thoughts before answering her questions.
2. Empathize: Start your response with an emotional acknowledgement of his feelings. Address his investment in the issue. He’s put a lot of thought into this problem. Give him the credit he deserves for being the concerned parent he is. Example: “You’ve put so much thought into this. I think it’s great that you care so much about your child’s health.”
3. Analyze: Ask questions to understand where they are getting their information from and what concerns them. Example: “I’ve been researching vaccines, too. Where did you hear that from?”
4. Resources: Answer her emotional concerns with knowledge and specific information (check out our FAQ page for some of the top questions people have about vaccines). Facts, paired with emotion, win parents over! Example: “That’s very interesting. What I’ve read on the Internet is pretty different. There’s a nonprofit organization called Every Child By Two that talks about how vaccines are safe and how they protect kids from dangerous diseases like whooping cough.”(Then insert talking points from the FAQs page to answer her specific questions.)
5. Tell: Conclude your points with another emotional statement that sums up what benefits you gain from vaccinating your child. Example: “After I read both sides of the argument, I decided to vaccinate my children. I get so worried when my baby’s sick, and I can’t bear the thought of her getting sick with something that could be avoided. For me, vaccines are all about prevention.”
Repeat this method with every concern she raises. Make sure to start over at the “Hear” stage to ensure you are answering her specific questions. Even if she shares an anecdotal story of her own, really listen to her fear and try to understand her root concern.

Vaccines are important, but they are not something to lose a friendship over. Don’t forget to respect your friend’s opinion, and trust that he will do the same. Here is a good phrase to help you get out of a tough conversation: “Thank you for sharing your opinions with me. I’m just glad we both care about protecting our kids’ health. Thank you for being so passionate.”

Now just smile, squeeze her arm, and divert the conversation to something you both can agree on. Remember, you might not sway your friends today, but you may have sparked a new way of thinking about vaccines. You have become an information source they can turn to with questions later.

If you want to learn more about Vax Northwest and the Immunity Community or want to become involved visit: www.vaxnorthwest.org

 

Tags: Community Health   Immunity Community   immunizations   kids health   Measles   mumps   Personal Belief Exemptions   Public Health   vaccine conversations   vaccines   Vax Northwest   

Immunization Promotion Hits Close To Home!

Yesterday over breakfast I read an opinion piece in The Seattle Times titled, “The rich and anti-vaccine quacks”, which draws attention to the fact that many parents in California, as in other states, are choosing not to vaccinate their kids. The columnist is outraged that this choice on behalf of “anti-vaxxers” puts public health at risk. Though this is not new news to me as the CEO of an organization that works hard to improve public health by encouraging vaccination, it became even more relevant and personal later in the day when I received word from my daughter’s Seattle high school that they have confirmed two cases of Pertussis, or Whooping Cough.
This is where my professional life and personal life cross. Like the columnist, I was frustrated and a bit outraged to receive this information from the school. Whooping Cough is a very serious illness, and is one of many vaccine preventable diseases. Though my daughter is fully immunized, my Mom brain began to spin – “Mari can’t get sick, she has way too much going on, she’s just getting up to speed as a freshman in high school, missing school would set her back, and what about kayak practice and her driver’s education course…”. Then my administrator brain activated – “Pertussis is highly contagious, what if it spread?, how many kids will get sick?, how will the school manage this?”… and finally, I ended up back at outrage – “why is my daughter’s school even having to deal with this?, I want them to focus on educating her, not addressing an avoidable health crisis!” I do not know the circumstances of the cases, nor the immunization status of the sick students, but I do know that we must use these scary moments to inspire positive action.
So, after yesterday, I am more passionate than ever about the protection immunization provides us all, and our work at WithinReach aimed at promoting immunization across the lifespan. Specifically, I am committed to our work to normalize immunization as a community priority. Our project called the Immunity Community reminds parents that the social norm is to vaccinate (the majority of us fully immunize on time and on schedule), and supports parents in conveying publicly WHY we vaccinate: the health and well-being of our entire community.

 

Tags: Anti-vaccine   Community Health   Immunization   kids health   Pertussis   preventable diseases   protection   Public Health   vaccinate   Whopping Cough   

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