Addressing Childhood Vaccines in a Religious Orthodox Community
In conversation I’ve noticed that several people who are skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccines are starting to be skeptical of all vaccines. I have no idea if this is an actual trend, as I’m only going off of my personal experience. I think it is a misguided view, and while it’s okay to ask questions and have concerns about historical vaccines, I would caution against going down the road of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There are risks with any vaccine, certainly. I think it would be disingenuous to claim there are not. There are risks with most things we do and take, even common over-the-counter medicines and supplements that we don’t think twice about. Sometimes when I hear people talk about vaccines, however, they seem to hyperfocus on the potential side effects of the vaccine (and most serious side effects are rare) and hypofocus on the disease he/she is up against. It’s a form of reductionism that I see a lot in the world of wellness, and it drives me nuts, because it takes you away from the big picture. I don’t think it’s wise to focus ONLY on the risks or ONLY on the benefits, and sometimes if you aren’t aware that you are doing that, you can create a skewed reality for yourself…for example, one where you go around denying the historical benefits of vaccines. Just think for a second: A world without the rabies vaccine? A world without the parvo vaccine for our dogs? A world without the whooping cough or polio vaccine? Without the smallpox vaccine? Thousands more people would be dead.
Everyone should do a risks/benefits analysis. The beauty of a risks/benefits analysis is that the name tells you everything you need to do one: risks AND benefits. What else does one entail? Since I do a lot of work in sciciomms, I wrote a piece about how to do a “napkin” risks/benefits analysis. You can read it here.
In a recent episode ( Episode 86) of Causes or Cures, I interviewed Dr. Blima Marcus, a doctor of nursing, professor and oncology nurse about addressing childhood vaccines in a religious orthodox community. Blima lives in a religious orthodox community and has seen her community go through several Measles outbreaks. There was also a pamphlet being shared throughout her community that was scaring parents into not vaccinating their kids. The pamphlet, as you can imagine, hyperfocussed on the risks of vaccination and didn’t say too many positive things about the vaccines themselves. To counter this, Blima used her science and medical background and created something called PIE. In the podcast, she’ll tell you more about PIE and what it does. She’ll also talk about both the good and bad feedback she’s received, and how she handles the bad (sometimes really toxic) feedback. In the podcast we also talk about how she addresses people who think very differently than she does. I always say Public Health is 95% communication. If you can’t connect with your target population, you’ll never have a successful public health intervention, no matter how good it looks on paper. Childhood vaccines in a religious orthodox community can be a very touch subject. There is both an art and science to public health communication. On social media, I see a lot of really smart people and experts in their field with horrific scientific communication skills and choices. They don’t even realize how their manner of communicating is sabotaging their own goals. It’s…mind-boggling, but book smarts doesn’t equal street smarts and having a large ego doesn’t mean having a lot of wisdom.
You can listen to my Childhood Vaccines in a Religious Orthodox Community podcast with Blima here.
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See you soon- Eeks