Why You Need to Think Twice Before Shaming Parents Who Don't Vaccinate

baby getting a shot

Can we talk about vaccines for a minute without getting heated? Yes, it's one of the most contentious topics parents talk about these days, and for good reason: We all care about our kids' health. But if you're in the "let's shame people for not vaccinating" camp, you're making a huge mistake.


Hold on. This is not to say that people shouldn't vaccinate their kids. Statistics from UNICEF estimate that if every kid in the world were vaccinated with existing immunizations, 25 million lives would be saved by the year 2020. 

Vaccines work. 

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But when parents make decisions about their kids, they tend to do so because they think it's the right thing to do. So, it's no surprise that scientists studying the conversations parents are having around vaccines have found that you can't shame parents into the practice. In fact, when researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute looked at a vaccine promotion program in their state designed to reduce "vaccine hesitancy," they found the most effective means to get parents to say "yes" to immunizations was hearing other parents talking simply and honestly about why they do so.

Got that? It's not "you're an idiot who is killing your child." It's "hey, my kid got the flu shot for the fourth year in a row today!"

It's kind of like every other discussion about parenting, right? If you insult a mom or dad right out of the gate, they're going to grab their kid and their kids' marbles and hightail it off the playground. Wouldn't you?

No one wants to hear someone else tearing his or her parenting apart.

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In many other areas of parenting, most of us are a bit gentler (most, not all). If a mom posts a photo on Facebook of her newborn baby sleeping in a crib with bumpers that look to be a SIDS hazard, a few parents will leap to criticize her. But the general public will hem and haw, wondering how to broach the topic to keep the baby safe without making the poor well-meaning parent feel like she just tried to murder her own baby.

She's not. You know that in your heart, right? She's just trying to make sense of all the myriad decisions and headlines relating to parents, and it's 99.9 percent likely she just missed the update that the bumpers that were okay 10 years ago are not okay anymore.

In many ways, the same goes for vaccines. There's more press, yes, and it's possible that an anti-vaxxing parent or a parent who is simply skeptical has fallen for some hoo-ha on the Internet. There's plenty of it flying around.

That said, they're not evil incarnate. They're not trying to kill their kids. They're doing what they think is best for their own children.

If you want them to jump on your bandwagon, the least you can do is speak to them they way you'd like someone to speak to you. It may not work. Then again, if they run out of the playground, with their toddler in their arms, you won't even get a chance to pitch them your take on the whole thing. 

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