Jul 20, 2019 | Updated: 08:54 AM EDT

Vaccine Hesitant Can Change to Pro-Vaccine If They go through Real-Life Pain of Diseases

May 22, 2019 11:47 AM EDT

Vaccine Hesitant Can Change to Pro-Vaccine If They go through Real-Life Pain of Diseases
(Photo : BYU Photo)

Brigham Young University professors, Brian Poole, Jamie Jensen, and their students have done new research and discovered that there is a better way to help increase support for vaccinations; expose people to the pain and suffering caused by vaccine-preventable diseases instead of trying to combat people with vaccine facts. The team published the findings of their study in the journal Vaccines.

An associate professor of microbiology and molecular biology, Poole said that vaccines are victims of their success. They are so effective that most people have no experience with vaccine-preventable diseases. The scientists need to reacquaint people with the dangers of those diseases.

The researchers designed an intervention for college students in Provo, Utah, a city which ranks sixth nationally for under-vaccinated kindergartens, with the hope to improve vaccine attitudes and uptake among future parents. They experimented with 574 participants, 491 of which were pro-vaccine and 83 being vaccine-hesitant, according to a pre-study survey.

They asked half the students to interview someone who experienced a vaccine-preventable disease such as polio for the study, while the other half (serving as the control group) interviewed someone with an auto-immune disease. Meanwhile, they also enrolled some students in courses that contained robust immune and vaccine-related curriculum while they joined others in a session with no vaccine curriculum.

Researchers discovered that almost 70 percent of the students who interviewed someone with a vaccine-preventable disease moved from vaccine-hesitant to pro-vaccine by the end of the study, even when they had no vaccine curriculum. Overall, 75 percent of vaccine-hesitant students increased their vaccine attitude scores, with 50 percent of those students moving entirely into pro-vaccine attitudes.

Also, the team discovered that all vaccine-hesitant students enrolled in a course with intensive vaccine curriculum significantly increased their vaccine attitude scores, with the majority of them moving into the pro-vaccine category.

Poole explained that if the goal is to affect people's decisions about vaccines, this process works much better than trying to comeback anti-vaccine information. It shows people that these diseases are indeed serious diseases, with painful and financial costs, and people need to take them seriously.

Poole and other authors of the study hope other universities and government agencies will see their findings and consider similar methods to improve vaccine attitudes.

Americans who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children have contributed to the increasing rate of outbreaks of the disease. A primary concern for government and health agencies is overcoming this "vaccine hesitancy," which have tried a variety of approaches to convince anti-vaccines to change their minds, including mandating vaccinations in some communities.

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