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Dissecting the whooping cough story: facts alone are not enough

Dr Julie Leask, a social scientist in the medical faculty at the University of Sydney, has done much research and thinking on the issues around public acceptance, or otherwise, of vaccination.

She wrote an interesting article in Crikey today about the image problem of swine flu vaccination and the need for “full transparency from the authorities” to ensure public confidence.  The public will need to know the data the Government is using to assess the vaccine presented in comparison with data comparing the risks of swine flu in Australia, and that systems for reporting adverse events following immunisation are in place, she wrote.

Those who saw the whooping cough story on the 7.30 Report may be interested in her analysis of related issues.

She writes:

“Vaccination is mostly a technically rational practice but the decision to vaccinate is not usually made with a rational approach to the facts. Trust, desire for protection, good mothering all play a role. Fear is also a powerful motivator. In vaccine promotion terms, Toni McCaffery’s willingness to go public is a blessing. Parents who will do this crop up every few years. In the meantime, vaccination advocates struggle in fighting emotional anti-vaccine stories with doctors delivering dry (in comparison) verbal reassurances.

Often parents who go against vaccination do so with what they believe is lots of evidence (often from Jenny McCarthy’s “University of Google”) They also have entrenched belief systems. This 2% will be almost impossible to win over.

A few media reports lately have suggested we are having a drop in rates. This is a blow-up. There is no sign of this from national rates which remain stable at about 94% for two year olds. I am not aware of a fall in the northern rivers rates. It’s always been poor with about two thirds fully vaccinated.

The current approach to the anti-vaccinationism movement is missing the mark.

Health professionals often seem to think you can just feed vaccine dissenters the facts, educate them and this will correct wayward thinking.

This demonstrates a poor understanding of the anxieties and wider social shifts at the heart of vaccine debates. These include mistrust driven by poorly handled health scares (CJD in the UK), a thirst for discrete causes of idiopathic ills (eg, autism), increasing tendency to question medicine, middle-class “intensive parenting”, and the appeal of natural health practices.

Tactics like The Skeptics’ which seek to demonise antivaccination polarise the issue taking away any room for grey in a complex issue (vaccines are great but not perfect).

They also give the AVN a media profile which would potentially attract fence-sitting new paid-up members who otherwise would not have contacted the once nearly bankrupted AVN.

One has to wonder whether appeals to availing oneself of the truth and facts will work with GenY parents who were raised to value the fundamental truth of the personal narrative. We need to consider new models of addressing vaccine scepticism. This first requires better understanding of the current landscape.

The best strategies will be evidence-based, tailored to parents’ needs and contemporary. They will be resource intensive and require consultation and listening, not lecturing.”

Comments 4

  1. Altakoi says:

    I know that your advice for better engagement is probably right, and probably effective. But part of me says that reality denying belief systems are only ever really changed by encounters with reality. The reality of bacterial infections is not forgiving of peoples ‘personal narratives’, and perhaps society has also to contribute to the harsh reality of the situation. The point about infectious diseases is that, unlike most other illness, what person A does affects the health of person B. So a child unvaccianted against an epidemic disease is not only at risk themselves, they are a risk to others. I would advocate getting serious about the passive smoking approach – which has been “not in here and not near me”. Make vaccination a requirement for attendence at school, attendance at camps etc and international travel for a starter.

  2. atomitron says:

    Altakoi: Reality denying? That is the richest thing I have heard all year! What forms your reality sir? I dare say this website has a great deal to do with it. I would also bet that the TV plays a big part. Have you ever heard of Plato’s “Allegory of the cave”? I would suggest that your reality is merely shadows cast on the cave wall. Now I will address your terribly illogical point regarding vaccinations. If Person B is vaccinated against all infectious diseases, how could Person A, who is not vaccinated, possibly infect Person B with any of those infectious diseases? The only way that this could happen is if 1. The vaccinations don’t work or 2…well that’s the only way! So you are advocating that unvaccinated people are a health risk to those vaccinated, yet the only logical conclusion to your own argument is that these vaccinations don’t work? Please explain. And “your” Orwellian statements regarding forced vaccinations are just plain scary. How can you advocate mass vaccination of the entire population (especially children) without taking into account individual circumstances? How can you administer a one-size-fits-all mass medication without having adverse reactions? Are you even aware where these vaccinations are brewed and what they are made out of? Are you aware of the toxins present in all vaccinations, Thimerasol and Formaldehyde being of greatest concern. A simple search of any patent registry will turn up more than enough mad science to make almost anyone think twice. But then again, that cave is awfully cosy isn’t it?

  3. AustImages says:

    Atomitron,

    The risk that unvaccinated people bring to the wider community is not generally to vaccinated adults, but to children who are not yet old enough to have received their full vaccination doses. It is these infants that are at risk in a community with low vaccination levels like the Northern Rivers area. The cases in point three babies who died this year from whooping cough after being infected by people not immune to the disease. Innocent lives lost before they had a chance to live. What a devastating tragedy. 3 babies lost in one small area of Australia thanks to a vaccination rate of ~66%, 30% below the national average. If you seriously believe that vaccination is more dangerous than the disease, then you must also believe that more than 3 babies were killed by vaccination over the same period? Do you believe that happened? Of course it didn’t. Any minor side effects of vaccination are massively overwhelmed by the dangers of being unvaccinated. By orders of magnitude.

    I should also point out that (if you do your research) you’ll find that NO CHILDHOOD VACCINES CONTAIN THIMEROSAL or any other form of mercury. It was removed in 1999-2000, almost 10 years ago. Another inconvenient fact for the anti-vaxxers.

    Am I concerned about the ingredients of vaccines? Nope, not a bit, because I know what’s in them, I understand what it means and what they do, and I have read more than just the lies and exaggerations of the anti-vax movement. I would suggest you do the same. My 9-week-old just had his first vaccinations, and myself, his mother and the grandparents all received a DTP booster as well.

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Summer reading 2020-2021
Tasmanian election 2021
Testing Croakey News category 1
The Croakey Archives
#cripcroakey
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#IHMayDay 2014
#IHMayDay15
#IHMayday16
#IHMayDay17
#IHMayDay18
#LoveRural 2014
Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2019
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
#CRANAplus15
#HSR15
#NRHC15
#OTCC15
Population Health Congress 2015
2016 conferences
#AHHAsim16
#AHMRC16
#ANROWS2016
#ATSISPEP
#AusCanIndigenousWellness
#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2017 conferences
#17APCC
#ACEM17
#AIDAconf2017
#BTH20