The US has seen an increasing number of outbreaks from some communicable diseases that can easily be controlled through vaccination, but there has been a parallel increase in the number of parents who are choosing not to vaccinate their children. In part because there are a lot of reasons that the vaccination rate is dropping (unfounded fears about vaccine safety and mistrust of pharmaceutical companies are two), it's not clear that a single intervention will reverse this trend.
A pair of papers released this week looked at two very different approaches, one focused on individuals and a second at state-level laws. They show that it's relatively simple to change both attitudes and actions on vaccination.
Fighting back against the backfire effect
The first study, from PNAS, looks at individuals' attitudes toward vaccines. You might think that countering unfounded fears about vaccine safety would be a simple matter of showing people the safety data, but it doesn't work like that. Doing so risks what's called the "backfire effect," described in the paper as follows: "Direct attempts to dispel myths [regarding vaccine safety] risk perpetuating those myths through their repetition, as this repetition breeds familiarity and may strengthen people’s memory for incorrect information."
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