Despite anti-vaxxer rhetoric, vaccination rates are higher than everS

Vaccination rates are up and have been for awhile. The public is more convinced than ever of the importance of vaccines. So, why are we hearing so much about the anti-vaccine movement? A new study delves into why — and what we can do about it.

Top image: The (consistently high) vaccination rates in the U.S. for children age 19-36 months between 2002-2012, using CDC data / Dan Kahan

A new paper posted by Yale University's Dan Kahan on the Social Science Research Network says that, based on both previous vaccination-attitude surveys and a new one of 2300 people that he conducted, vaccination rates and public acceptance of it are extremely high. But reports on both the science and the safety of vaccination don't convince anti-vaxxers, and may even polarize them more.

So what should we be doing instead? Kahan says that the best way to promote vaccination may be to report on the already existing high vaccination rates, creating a kind of peer-pressure to vaccinate as a public good:

Indeed, public awareness that the U.S. has historically enjoyed and continues to enjoy exceptionally high rates of compliance with universal vaccination programs should be regarded as an important public-health resource. The best available evidence on science and risk communication implies that "public health campaigns that describe the already wide acceptance of pertussis vaccination" and other immunizations against childhood disease is the most reliable way to sustain that widespread acceptance.

Of course, perhaps the best path might be to combine the two, by continuing to report on vaccination science and discourse, but also foregrounding the general acceptance of vaccination (and the consistently high vaccination-rates) in the discussion.