No more shots in the dark

Posted on February 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Celebrities typically make for very good spokespeople.

For example, the anti-vaccination policy got a very high-profile lift from its unofficial spokesperson, Jenny McCarthy.  Due in part to her celebrity status, many parents began to question the safety of childhood immunizations.

And despite recent reports suggesting flaws in previous studies, a recent poll finds that nearly half of Americans still suspect a vaccine-autism link.

Truth is, there are a lot of completely valid reasons why parents don’t immunize their kids – they don’t know the vaccination schedule, or they don’t know if the shots are a covered benefit, or daily job and life responsibilities just make it hard to find the time.

Those issues are easier to address. But for those who still have that nagging suspicion that vaccinations carry risks that are too great to take, we have a responsibility to at least present the most recent evidence on the topic.

So we might want to consider sharing this new information in ways that are as impassioned and compelling and with enough human interest angles as the stories that we get sucked into while waiting in line at the grocery store.

We survived that misguided “heroin chic” trend, which glamorized the waifish and wasted look – how about “immunization chic?”

There are already some great, respectable efforts in this direction – including the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition’s “Immunize for Good” campaign which makes getting vaccinations a badge of honor for both parents and kids.

And offers literal badges recognizing healthy behaviors (such as getting a flu shot) that can be posted on Facebook.

It’s an update on those “I gave blood today” stickers donors wear, or those “Kiss me, I’m Irish” pins that everyone seems to pull out of their drawers in mid-March.

Public health authorities have an incredibly important job to do – promoting the facts around disease and prevention. Our job is to make that story resonate – making immunization a choice that people feel good about, that they are proud of, that they will share with their friends.

Just like we share the latest issue of US Weekly with our friends – after we’re done pawing through it, of course.

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