The measles outbreaks that have been happening across the country may lead some to think that those who are anti-vaccine might change their minds, but a study says this is not so. When confronted with solid evidence, like the measles outbreak, it might seem that individuals would be prompted to use vaccines, but it will not change the mind of anti-vaxxers.
The study, which was published in Pediatrics, was authored by Dr. Brendan Nyhan. Nyhan, and his fellow authors, hypothesized that those individuals who feel the strongest about not vaccinating their children would actually have an increase in resistance to vaccination when shown pro-vaccination messages. They were right. The study proved that by showing messages that contained factual proof highlighting the benefits of vaccines to individuals who are anti-vaccination does not increase their chances of vaccinating their children. The reverse might actually happen. Individuals who had the least favorable opinion towards vaccines actually decreased in their intent to vaccinate their children after being shown pro-vaccination messages.
Vaccines are a crucial topic right now as the debate grows in importance while once nearly eradicated diseases are now resurfacing in America. Many are pointing a finger at anti-vaxxers for the reemergence of measles, mumps, and whooping-cough. The majority of anti-vaxxers believe that they are protecting their children from harm by declining vaccinations. Some perceive that the ingredients of vaccines can be harmful to children, and then there are some who believe that vaccines, specifically the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine, is linked to autism.
One may assume that these recent measles, mumps, and whooping-cough outbreaks would prompt individuals with children who have not received vaccines to change their minds and vaccinate their children, but it will not. The study by Nyhan shows that any information presented to anti-vaxxers should be carefully considered. He advised that vaccination messages need to be carefully tested before being released to the public in order to not have a backfire effect.
What does this resistance to vaccines mean? Is it merely coincidence that as vaccine rates drop disease rates increase? In 2010 California had an outbreak of whooping-cough that was the worst it had seen since 1947. Areas with high non-vaccination levels were hit hardest by this outbreak. The measles, which were eliminated from the United States a decade ago, have tripled in the number of cases in 2013. So far this year that number is only growing.
These diseases could be once again eliminated through proper vaccine use. These diseases have been imported into the United States, whether that was through a U.S. citizen traveling to another country and bringing it back, or an individual from another country coming into the U.S. and bringing it with him or her. This was not as much cause for concern when vaccination rates were higher, but now that vaccination rates are dropping one can see the implications.
One may be tempted to think that this will only be an issue for those who choose to not be vaccinated, but that is not the case. There are individuals who cannot be vaccinated because of compromised immune systems. Mallory Olsheski, of Ontario, Canada, cannot vaccinate her two-year-old son. In 2012 he had a heart transplant when he was five-months-old. This surgery compromised his immune system, which leaves him unable to get vaccines. It also means that contracting measles could be deadly for him. As the measles outbreaks grow in Canada, where there is also a decline in vaccination rates, she has to limit the time her two-year-old son spends outside the home. Olsheski stated that staying home more often has been difficult for her social son, but she also speaks of the dangers of exposing her son’s fragile immune system to a disease that is making a comeback.
These diseases, which were once so rare in the United States, have a solution, vaccination. Healthcare officials are urging individuals who have not received vaccinations to do so. Though it seems that the disease outbreaks, including measles, should prompt vaccine use, Nyhan’s study shows that is likely that the messages given by healthcare officials will not change the minds of those who are against vaccines.
By Ashley Campbell