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Scientists Believe They Have Found The Best Way To Argue With Anti-Vaxxers

Scientists Believe They Have Found The Best Way To Argue With Anti-Vaxxers

Scientists believe the best way to convince anti-vaxxers to change their views is via the use of negative stories from disease sufferers.

Hannah Blackiston

Hannah Blackiston

Just in time for the Omicron variant to interrupt our hot vax summer, scientists believe they have found the best way to argue with anti-vaxxers.

It comes as the US is battling not just Covid-19, but a rise in measles and other diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations.

Clearly the messages pleading with people to get vaccinated for coronavirus and other preventable illnesses are falling on deaf ears for some.

So, scientists turned their brains to find new ways to convince people to vaccinate both themselves and their families.

Andy Barton / Alamy Stock Photo
Andy Barton / Alamy Stock Photo

In fact, scientists think they may have come up with the perfect way to change people's attitudes.

Rather than focusing on reiterating scientific evidence, a group of experts from the University of Illinois believe they have found a way to change people's beliefs by reminding people of the harm that not getting vaccinated can have.

Some would say that science alone and the health advice of experts should be enough to convince people to get the jab, but if this works then I'm all for it.

In findings published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reissuing information around the benefit of vaccinations may not be the most effective way to convince people.

Sipa US / Alamy Stock Photo
Sipa US / Alamy Stock Photo

In fact, studies have demonstrated that providing information that attempts to undermine misbeliefs about the supposed dangers of vaccination can actually backfire and strengthen negative attitudes.

"Perhaps we need to direct people's attention to the other aspect of the decision," lead author Zachary Horne said in a statement.

"You may be focused on the risk of getting the shot. But there's also the risk of not getting the shot. You or your child could get measles."

Researchers used this theory to conduct a new study that looked at the effectiveness of highlighting factual information about the dangers of communicable diseases.

After recruiting 315 volunteers, the researchers used questionnaires to survey their views on a variety of divisive subjects, including vaccination.


Participants were then split into three groups who received different study conditions.

One group was provided with scientific literature that refuted common vaccination myths.

The second, a so-called 'disease risk group', was given various materials highlighting the risks associated with three vaccine-preventable diseases: measles, mumps and rubella.

These included stories from parents whose children had suffered such diseases, images of infants with the infections and information regarding the potential consequences of failing to vaccinate.

The final group was a control that was given unrelated reading material.

BSIP SA / Alamy Stock Photo
BSIP SA / Alamy Stock Photo

Attitudes were assessed at the end of the study to see whether the intention to vaccinate their children had changed as a result.

The researchers report they found that the second intervention successfully changed people's vaccination attitudes in a positive manner; even those with the strongest anti-vaccination beliefs.

"Of course, the skeptics are the people with the greatest amount of room to move, so in a sense that finding is unsurprising," study author John Hummel said in a statement.

"But it's also extremely important because those are precisely the people you want to move."

Featured Image Credit: Phanie / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: News