Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, what if we saw more pictures on-line of children and families willingly being vaccinated? What if the first image that came to mind when thinking about vaccination was happy, strong, healthy children protecting themselves and their communities – not children screaming and being forcibly restrained? What if we saw more stories on Twitter and Facebook and other social media sites about vaccines saving lives – about vaccines given and nothing gone wrong (which, of course, is the norm)? What if everyone who believed in vaccines tweeted about it and shared journal articles and other factual, rigorously tested information on Facebook?
The advent of the Internet and social media has resulted in the rapid dissemination of information. Any Tom, Dick, Harry, or Jane can hang up an on-line shingle and proclaim expertise in a subject that they may have no expertise in at all. And it can be darn difficult to tell what is a reputable site and what is smoke and mirrors wrapped in a pretty package. Bold headlines and the citing of so-called “experts” can lend unwarranted legitimacy to stories that capture people’s attention and amplify their fears. This is what happens with anti-vaccine rhetoric and why, lately, it seems that everywhere you look (or click) there is some scary story about vaccines, stoking the fires of doubt.
Ok, so what I’m about to propose isn’t the only solution. The problem of vaccine hesitancy is multi-pronged and no one approach has ever proven completely effective. We know that the Internet can be an echo-chamber. It feeds us what we want to hear and see and doesn’t necessarily expand our point of view. But couldn’t we use this echo-chamber effect to our advantage? We, being anyone in the medical, scientific, and lay community that supports vaccination and wants to prevent a return of deadly diseases. Instead of seeing doubts and fears at every turn, let’s take advantage of social media’s reach. Let’s use it to make support for vaccination what people see as they navigate the online world.
The month of August is National Immunization Awareness Month. This is the perfect time, when kids are getting their back-to-school shots and when flu season is just around the corner, to begin a social media campaign of vaccine promotion. I’m hoping you will join me and many other organizations around the world (Vaccinate your Family, Families Fighting Flu, the Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and more) in promoting immunization.
When you or your kids get your vaccines, shoot a photo. Take a selfie. Then post that photo on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. with the hashtag #ShowUsYourShot. Challenge your family and friends and others in your community to do the same. Let’s see how many posts we can get across the country and around the world.
As the saying goes, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” Join us in showing the world that vaccination is the right choice and the most popular choice. It is one of the best things we can do to protect our own health, the health of our loved ones, and the health of our communities.