Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What To Do If Your Friends Have Questions About Vaccines

(This post is following up on my last post dedicated to vaccination.)

    So I’m glad we had this talk. I realize this subject is taboo and polarizing but I actually learned a lot from several, mostly private, conversations. And from what I’ve been told it actually helped some people realize that not everyone who doesn’t vaccinate is evil. Great.

    What I’ve learned is this: People who have questions about vaccines NEED someone to talk to but no one on either end wants to have exhaustive, tension-filled arguments debating science. Well, I take that back... the most extreme on both ends will gladly have exhaustive, tension-filled arguments about science! But that is not productive. So what do we do? If you shun a person for their curiosity, you are effectively sending them to the wolves. What I’m getting from my friends is that they don’t know what to say or how to react when someone approaches them with questions. That’s where I’ve realized the the conversation needs to start.

So you have a friend who has questions...

What you might hear: “I just read an article about all the junk they put in vaccines!”

What NOT to do:

1)    Dismiss their feelings with statements like:
“That’s total misinformation. The amount of toxins and chemicals in vaccines is well under what is acceptable for human consumption! You can’t believe everything you read!”

2)   Refer them to a bunch of technical studies:
“Well, I read an article stating.... blah, blah, blah........ I’ll send you an email later with links!”

What to do instead:

1)   Acknowledge their feelings.
“I know. There are a lot of conflicting messages out there about vaccines. It’s so hard to know what to do as a parent.”

2)   State your feelings in a non-judgmental way.
“I try to be educated and make good choices for my kids. In the end, I still feel like vaccination is the best route even if there are questionable ingredients.”

3)   Show trust in their judgment as a parent.
“You’re a good Mom. I’m sure you’ll make the right decision for your kids.”

4)   LISTEN if they need to talk about it further.
You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to say they are right to make them feel better. Validate their FEELINGS. “I’m sorry you are scared.” “It’s not easy.” etc.

You don’t have to lie. Most people just need someone to listen and then they will feel comfortable getting information from the right sources. And as much as you want to be that right source, you probably aren’t qualified to give them medical advice.

Another Example:

Someone posts an article or study on Facebook from a shady source about how vaccines cause cancer or infertility or how you are poisoning your children.

What NOT to do:

Post a competing article about the awful effects of vaccine preventable diseases with a caption that reads, “Seriously! People are so dumb if they can’t see why vaccines are necessary!” (Truthfully, that person might read your article but you’ve sent them in with a closed mind and they will probably end up more convinced of their own opinion.)

What to do instead:

Go ahead. Post your article about the most recent outbreak. (Maybe wait a few days.) But your caption should say something like this: “Those poor kids. I can’t imagine what their families are going through.” Your opinion on vaccination is implied by the giant article on your page but you are showing sympathy. Minds opened.

And on the off chance that a doctor is reading this...

This is what you should say to your patients:

“So I want to talk to you about vaccination. I know there is so much out there about the pros and cons of this decision and it’s hard to know who to trust. You are ultimately the only person on the planet who can make decisions for your kids so I want to make sure you have the best information. Overall, vaccines have been a huge success in this country and have saved countless lives. No medication or vaccination is without risk to certain individuals so it’s important that you understand why vaccination is important.” (Here is where you hand them packets of papers and go through it with them.)

If they have concerns and seem against vaccination all together:

“Not all vaccinations are created equal. They all have different ingredients and different risks but they also protect against a varying degree of danger. I would say there are a few that I feel are important to have on time in order to protect young children who are at higher risk of death. (Insert your chosen list of diseases.) I want to make sure you are comfortable with this process so please tell me your concerns and questions as they come up and together we can come up with a schedule that works for your child.”

If they still won’t budge:

“I’m not going to pressure you into making a decision about this today but I hope you will continue to have an open mind about the subject. I will continue to give you my advice on what I think is in the best interest of your child... that is hopefully what you are paying me for... but I also trust you as your child’s mother/father.”

Man, I wish I had this doctor! :) I know... doctors are busy. But if it truly is about the kids, this is how you have this conversation.

I hope this helps. I’ve truly been on both sides of this issue. I wish when I had questions people would have been open to talking to me about it.

1 comment:

kwriter said...

Being there and listening is so important. I would add that the risks of not vacinnating go beyond your child. Other children who are not vacinnated are at risk and for some of them, getting a vacinnation is not an option. Complex issue.