Persuade, don’t malign anti-vaxxers

 

If we really want to convince parents to vaccinate their children, name-calling and vilification is not the way to go.

image: Wired

Yet, that seems to be a common tactic. You don’t have to go far on social media to find out. Here’s an example from Twitter:

Craig Levine @AstronomerXI “Let’s call #antivaxxers what they are: pro-disease, pro-death, pro child-suffering, ignorant, arrogant, stupid, fanatical, brain-washed, pathetic, selfish.”

Having lived through polio epidemics as kid, I don’t have to be convinced of the benefits of vaccination. Polio vaccines not only saved lives, it removed my fear of going to movies and school, and of going out to play.

The danger is real. A measles outbreak in the U.S. is at a 25-yar high. Three-quarters of those who caught the extremely contagious disease are children or teenagers.

Canada has large pockets of unvaccinated children. In Ontario, they have things in common:

“Those students tended to have things in common. For instance, unvaccinated children with non-medical exemptions were more likely to go to private or religious school, or be home-schooled, live in a rural area or a community with a small- to medium-sized population and be located in the southwest and central west regions (Globe and Mail, April 30, 2019).”

The Vancouver area is also experiencing a measles outbreak this year. And in neighbouring Washington a state of emergency was declared due to a measles outbreak -although no cases have been linked to B.C.

As is typical of character assignation, reluctant parents have been unfairly grouped together. But they are not monolithic say professors Julie Bettinger and Devon Greyson of UBC and the University of Massachusetts, respectively:

“While dismissing non-vaccinating parents as anti-science, uneducated, conspiracy theorists might be tempting, we find these stereotypes represent only a small minority of this population (Globe and Mail, April 22, 2019).”

Professors Bettinger and Greyson found that these stereotypes represented a minority of non-vaccinating parents. They surveyed, interviewed, and observed more than 2,000 parents to understand what causes vaccine hesitancy and how to address it.

First, despite the characterization of non-vaccinating parents as “pro-death” and “pro child-suffering,” they have the best interests of their children at heart. Additionally, they care about other children who can’t be vaccinated and who are at risk.

Yes, they may fear the safety of vaccines as a result of what they have heard from people they trust. Some lack of knowledge of the extensive testing and safety monitoring that ensures our safe vaccine supply. Sometimes their reluctance is born from a lack of trust and a perceived betrayal by the health care system -they don’t believe anything medical researchers tell them.

Some indigenous people don’t trust the colonial system that decimated their communities by purposely introducing disease.

They may live in remote areas and face barriers of getting to clinics. Access can be a problem for urban dwellers, too, for those who can’t get time off work to take in their children.

Some fear talking to health-care providers about their concerns because they’ll be labelled as “one of those parents.”

The remedy to vaccination-resistance is not easy. Trustworthy relationships must be developed. Mobile clinics with extended hours will help. Name-calling and the failure to address the genuine concerns of parents will only deepen the divide.

 

 

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The CTF doesn’t speak for this taxpayer

Given the amount of media attention that the Canadian Taxpayers Federation gets, you would think that their members would be legion. But no, there are only five.

Sign in Calgary paid for by CTF

Sign in Calgary paid for by CTF

While there are thousands of donors, they have no say in the running of the CTF. Sensitive to the charge that they are an Astroturf organization –a fake grassroots group–  CTF spokesman Scott Hennig responded with Setting the record straight: how the CTF is governed.

“From time to time, some folks claim the CTF is not a grassroots organization because we have ‘five members,'” he wrote. “The truth is that we sometimes have four, sometimes six and currently we have five. According to our bylaws we can have as few as three and as many as 20.”

That’s a pretty weak defence. To quibble over the actual small number of members is to ignore the point. The problem is that the CTF doesn’t hold annual meetings in which members can discuss policy and elect board members. The CTF argues that democracy is too messy.

“Many reading this will have sat through the AGM of a broad member-based organization where two hours is spent arguing over some small change to the bylaws. Well intended to be sure, but largely a waste of time and at the end of the meeting half the attendees leave disappointed and disillusioned.”

Henning justifies the top-down approach by comparing the CTF with other not-for-profits and charities such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

This is a false correlation. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association advocates for the civil liberties of all. The CTF advocates for only some taxpayers.

They don’t represent this taxpayer. The assumption of the CTF is that taxes are a bad idea. I gladly pay taxes, not just because I receive good value in return in the form of health care, schools, roads and infrastructure, but because good countries are well-financed. It’s the price of civilization. The governor of Vermont expressed this idea a long time ago:

“Taxation is the price which we pay for civilization, for our social, civil and political institutions, for the security of life and property, and without which, we must resort to the law of force (1852).”

The CTF doesn’t represent others either: those who pay no taxes such as the working poor, stay-at-home parents, and children.

Blogger Dougald Lamont has a problem with the emphasis of taxpayers’ issues over other citizens:

“Defining taxpayers as the only people who matter has real and serious consequences for policy. It is not a politically neutral position: it is a fairly radical right-wing ideology that drives inequality by making the rich richer while neglecting the poor.”

The CTF is disingenuous when it claims to be non-political. You only have to look at past directors to realize their libertarian bent. They include former Conservative Jason Kenney, members of the Saskatchewan Party, Wildrose and Reform parties, the Fraser Institute and press secretary for Rob Ford.

The CTF is welcome to express its anti-government views. But this taxpayer wishes not to be lumped in with their ilk. Media should refer to them as “a right-wing lobby group.”