Story and science: how providers and parents can utilize storytelling to combat anti-vaccine misinformation

Shelby, Ashley; Ernst, Karen
Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics

With little or no evidence-based information to back up claims of vaccine danger, anti-vaccine activists have relied on the power of storytelling to infect an entire generation of parents with fear of and doubt about vaccines. These parent accounts of perceived vaccine injury, coupled with Andrew Wakefield's fraudulent research study linking the MMR vaccine to autism, created a substantial amount of vaccine hesitancy in new parents, which manifests in both vaccine refusal and the adoption of delayed vaccine schedules. The tools used by the medical and public health communities to counteract the anti-vaccine movement include statistics, research, and other evidence-based information, often delivered verbally or in the form of the CDC's Vaccine Information Statements. This approach may not be effective enough on its own to convince vaccine-hesitant parents that vaccines are safe, effective, and crucial to their children's health. Utilizing some of the storytelling strategies used by the anti-vaccine movement, in addition to evidence-based vaccine information, could potentially offer providers, public health officials, and pro-vaccine parents an opportunity to mount a much stronger defense against anti-vaccine messaging.