Why Stating Facts About Vaccines & Child Health Isn't Parent-Shaming
Look, in today's world there's about a million ways in which parents are shamed for the choices they make in parenting their kids. And nine times out of 10, that's totally and completely not okay. But, sometimes, information needs to be shared, and informing parents of the choices they're making regarding their kids' health isn't shaming or bullying — when it's done right, anyway. Of course, purposefully making another parent feel bad for the choices they make is never okay, but stating facts about vaccines and child health isn't parent-shaming, and this is why: Literal lives are at risk.
In the controversial and heated debate about childhood vaccines, there is a very thin line between sharing scientific, statistical information, and guilting parents who don't vaccinate their kids for that decision. And while the ramifications of the anti-vaccination rhetoric are certainly dangerous, there's a way to keep calm when discussing things those parents. In fact, a new study proves that "using parent advocates as part of a community-based approach to reduce vaccine hesitancy," works, especially when that approach features "positive dialogue." So, yes, there is a way to engage with parents who are opposed to vaccines in a productive, non-shaming way. Basically, just present the facts, because really, they speak for themselves.
Parents who are against vaccinating their kids often have a conspiracy-theory mindset when it comes to "big pharma" and a basic lack of trust of the government and medical community. And as has been proven recently, fake news websites are on the rise, and articles with nifty anecdotes claiming that a child was vaccinated and then developed autism are all over social media.
But, that doesn't mean that it's impossible to convince parents that vaccines are indeed largely safe, healthy, and necessary. The study mentioned above indicates that parents who calmly explain their reasoning for vaccinating their kids, and presenting others with the facts instead of getting angry is the only way to begin to convince anti-vaxxers that they might not be as informed as they think they are.
In the end, every parent wants what's best for their children, and scare-tactics that are prominent in anti-vaccine rhetoric work to create a negative connotation between vaccines and autism, as well as other diseases.
But by presenting actual scientific evidence against those claims, and keeping a non-judgmental tone, parents can have meaningful discussions about vaccines that might work to prevent more outbreaks of diseases like measles. Because, as the study shows, parents who work to positively inform others about vaccines were able to decrease anti-vaccine sentiment "from 22.6% to 14.0%." So, keep fighting the good fight, and remember that you aren't shaming other parents, you're trying to help.