Addressing concerns about vaccines

“The news media’s attempt to be fair and balanced often results in quoting individuals on both sides of a vaccine issue. In other words, expert opinions of scientists or medical professionals are often juxtaposed against a parent who is certain that vaccines caused harm, when, in fact, the weight of the evidence counters such claims. That is, personal stories and anecdotes are often juxtaposed against factual opinions based on a large body of sustained scientific work. Inaccurate stories and misstatement of facts on vaccines, even when contradicted, remain in people’s minds.” - Assessing the State of Vaccine Confidence in the United States: Recommendations from the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, 2015

What is vaccine confidence?

The National Vaccine Advisory Committee defines vaccine confidence as the trust that [adults] or health-care providers have 

  1. in the recommended immunizations,
  2. in the provider(s) who administers vaccines, and
  3. in the process that leads to vaccine licensure and the recommended vaccination schedule.

Who can build vaccine confidence?

  • Anyone! Individuals report that it is ultimately a conversation with a health care provider that changes their mind about vaccines. However, other issues impact the decision as well:

    • Perceptions of susceptibility, severity of disease, and efficacy of the vaccine 

    • Social norms via groups of friends, news media stories, and cognitive heuristics used in health-related decisions

  • Those who work with older adults in a variety of settings can help influence the conversation, educate about susceptibility and severity, and set social norms about vaccine decision making. (See pages 7-8 of GSA's publication Communicating With Older Adults for a case study.) 

How can vaccine confidence be increased?

  • Most efforts to help guide vaccine conversations focus on presentation of facts; however, literature shows that decisions are made based on cognitive biases and heuristics rather than rationally. In their 2011 article, “Vaccine education spectrum disorder: the importance of incorporating psychological and cognitive models into vaccine education,” (Vaccine, Volume 29, Issue 37, 26 August 2011, pages 6145-6148), Poland and Poland provide ideas for moving forward.

    • Be knowledgeable in health education theory- the Transtheoretical Model, self-efficacy theory, Health Belief Model, and ecologic theories all have roles in play in helping move individuals to action.

    • Define your audience- understand their needs, cognitive abilities, and emotional baseline. Identify where the audience finds value in different modes or styles of education (eg, social media, gaming technology, scientific reviews). Decide whether to use gain-based or loss-based theories of health messaging. 

    • Match the audience’s cognitive style to an approach. Poland and Poland use this non-exhaustive table.




Partner Statements on Vaccine Safety

 GSA is proud to participate in the NVAC Vaccine Confidence Partners Group.