Address facts with fast facts and key messages
You’ve asked permission to share with a vaccine hesitant person, and they want to hear what you have to say about their concerns. Here are some facts you might be able to use to frame risk perception and other concerns around vaccines and diseases.
- Vaccines have been studied for more than a century. They are literally the most studied health intervention around! And because of that, we can speak very definitely and confidently about vaccines.
- Thousands of studies, involving millions of people prove that vaccines are safe and effective in preventing serious and deadly diseases.
- The science is clear – the great benefits of vaccines outweigh the very small risks associated with them.
- There is a robust safety process that starts with the development of a new vaccine and continues monitoring every single dose once a vaccine is available to the public for as long as it’s in use.
- More than 170 countries have an independent group (National Immunization Technical Advisory Group or NITAG) of experts that evaluates vaccines. In the U.S., this group is known as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices or ACIP. NITAGs share information with each other, adding to the large amounts of safety information about
- The scientific process for vaccine development is extremely rigorous. Tens of thousands of volunteers are involved in safety trials before a vaccine is ever delivered to a healthcare clinic and prepared for your arm.
- Scientists are experts who spend their careers focused on provable facts. Our Google searches are not equivalent to their research – so be wary of someone who wants to give you information based on “their own research” or the “research” of a non-expert.
- More than 100 years of research tells us that vaccines are very safe. They are so safe that, on average, there will be only one serious adverse event for every one million doses of vaccine.
- Disease-related deaths and disabilities have decreased significantly when vaccines are introduced.
- It’s important to get your safety information from credible sources who have no financial gain in supporting or opposing vaccines.
It can be a challenge to debunk disinformation but we’ve got an app for that.
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Expertise is NOT a four letter word
We’re in a strange space where we both distrust experts and believe we can all be experts through a Google search. No wonder we’re all a bit confused.
It’s time to sing the praises of the expert again. For those of us who are not car mechanics, we can’t expect to fix a transmission based on some Google searches.
Same with science. Scientists spend years learning how to rigorously conduct scientific work. And more years after that, honing their expertise about a specific area. We’re just never going to know as much as them.
And that’s ok.
A lot of people read journal articles and think they’ve learned all they need to know. But the danger is not fully understanding all the nuances. Scientists understand things like how a p-value can impact the strength of the findings.
They know how to evaluate different study designs when reading the literature. And understand if a sample size is appropriate for the study objective. Most of us don’t know this.
And expertise is a very specific thing. There is no expert of all things. Expertise takes so long to cultivate that people are only truly experts in one or two things. So your fabulous cardiologist is probably not a vaccine expert. And an immunologist probably isn’t the best choice to learn about mental health.
That’s why expertise matters. Let’s get back to listening to our mechanic for car trouble, our chiropractor for back issues, and our vaccine expert for vaccines.
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