A new book by Jonathan M. Berman, an assistant professor at the New York Institute of Technology, discusses the suspicious attitudes toward vaccinations that have long been a part of American life, and that at the turn of the millennium persuaded many people that vaccines cause autism. The book, “Anti-Vaxxers: How to Challenge a Misinformed Movement,” carries its point of view in its subtitle.
“People we know are more trustworthy than people we don’t know,” Berman writes. “Statistics are less convincing than stories. Establishment authorities, such as physicians and federal agencies, engender distrust. Chemicals and substances with long and unpronounceable names can be frightening. We fear that putting things that are not natural into our bodies will make us impure. How we view ourselves and how we appear to our peers informs what we view as good parenting.”
In Pill Form:
Berman doesn’t believe that the way to “challenge” the anti-vaxxers is by debating the facts with them. They sometimes change their mind, but not generally because of a confrontation with facts. Rather, the way to challenge them is to understand what makes them tick, especially their self-image as parents who will do anything, oppose any authority, engage in any social-media war, to protect their children. The challenge must appeal to that same self-image, and offer those parents a different story.