Working More Effectively with “Anti-Vaxers”

Many vaccine preventable diseases are on the rise in the United States. Measles, mumps, whooping cough, and chickenpox are the four most commonly cited diseases that are a part of this trend. As future public health practitioners, this issue should come as a concern. So how do we effectively target people who are choosing not to vaccinate their children?

Researchers from Rutgers University made an important point that will be critical to future efforts in this area: Not all anti-vaxers are the same. I am guilty of separating people into two groups. There are those who vaccinate and those who don’t. However, the truth is that people fall along a continuum, with each person placed at a different point along that continuum based on a unique combination of barriers and information they are exposed to.

The paper specifically divides anti-vaxers into four groups. Each group has their own set of convictions and obstacles that have pushed them away from recommended vaccinations, some of which are more easily addressed than others.

This article is a good reminder that as future public health practitioners we need to look closer at our populations of interest, regardless of the public health topic. There is not simply a them and us or those who follow the ‘rules’ and those who don’t but rather a whole section of the population that is scattered somewhere in between, and they need tailored interventions specific to their needs if we are to ever move them in the right direction.